Data offload will have to come, and quickly

While the rebranding of Orange and T-Mobile in the UK to Everything Everywhere was initially labelled as clumsy and faintly ridiculous, there is growing acceptance by consumers that this "anywhere" level of connectivity is what they want--and increasingly expect.

The growing number of devices that are capable of being wirelessly connected seems only set to continue, pushed along by mobile operators introducing new data services in an effort to boost revenues from this sector.

A new study into this headlong rush by Juniper Research illustrates possible trends that the mobile industry might need to be alert to, or take advantage of. Juniper's Mobile Data Offload Briefing claims that offloading this mobile data using femtocells and Wi-F networks, an approach being adopted by an increasing number of operators, will alleviate some of the operators' network congestion.

However, the study believes that a significant proportion of the offloaded data could itself be offset by data from fixed device migration across to mobile, such as netbooks, games consoles and laptops. This migration to mobile data connections could also be handled by femtocells and Wi-Fi, if European operators are able to resolve issues with subsidising the cost of femtocells and accepting Wi-Fi as a wireless connection that could be integrated into a macrocell network.

It sounds simple, but some of the larger equipment vendors argue that this approach is expensive and technically difficult. Although these companies might have a bias towards selling base stations, they are the experts in making networks hang together and should be listened to.

Regardless of the particular solution adopted--and it'll probably be some hybrid solution--action is required, if Juniper's forecast for data growth is accepted.

The firm believes that the total mobile data traffic generated from devices including smartphones, feature phones and tablets is forecast to grow from 1,254.2 Petabytes (1 Petabyte equals 1,000 Terrabytes) in 2010 to 14,211 Petabytes in 2015.

While trying to comprehend this level of data transmission is difficult, Juniper claims that the amount of data traffic that is being offloaded from the operator networks to other complementary networks will increase from around 43 per cent in 2010 to over 63 per cent by the end of 2015

Of more interest--or concern, depending on which industry you're working for--is that North America and Western Europe are forecast to experience the highest offload factor, reaching 76 per cent and 74 per cent, respectively, by the end of 2015.

To say that we live in interesting times (suggested to be either an ancient Chinese proverb or curse) might look like an understatement. --Paul