Mobile operators need to push handset firms to make more bandwidth-efficient devices, says Alcatel-Lucent Asia-Pacific chief Rajeev Singh-Molares.
The firm sees a potential 16 times increase in data traffic over the next five years, “and depending on how aggressive your set of assumptions is, that could be as high as a 40 times increase by 2015,” Singh-Molares told Telecoms Europe.net.
Hong Kong operator CSL has seen a 47-times increase in data traffic since it launched HSPA+ 18 months ago. CIO Peter Smith says usage could jump by another 50 times in the next five years.
Telefonica O2 in the UK expects data traffic to double every six months.
With that level of increased usage, Singh-Molares said the use of LTE, offloads such as Wi-Fi and femtocells, and IP network upgrades would only mitigate the problem.
He said handset-makers and apps developers need to be more concerned about how efficiently apps run on mainstream devices. “Certain devices grab onto network capacity and hang onto it longer than they should. Simply altering the design of the device can impact the efficiency.”
He noted that the difference in efficiency levels between devices can be enormous.
A phone consumes signaling capacity as well as actual data traffic. The design of the application affects how often - and how much - signaling capacity is required and, in many cases, can be improved to reduce the network impact, explained Rasmus Hellberg from Qualcomm.
Phil Marshall, chief research officer for Tolaga Research, said the application architecture plays a critical role. He said the results he's seen suggest the difference in efficiency can be as much as a factor of two to three.
“For example, an iPhone device typically consumes more than twice the bandwidth of a BlackBerry for equivalent use cases. The BlackBerry applications are optimized as they pass through RIM's network operations center.”
Singh-Molares says network operators need to push the handset vendors, but he admits that smaller players have less power to dictate the terms to manufacturers
“That's got to change over time as networks get congested. Service providers are going to have to try to optimize the network, and certainly they will look at their architecture, the configuration, and they will absolutely have to spend more time talking with their device suppliers to ensure they are efficient and network friendly.”
When operators introduce new devices, they've seen dramatic changes in the traffic load and in the demands put on the network, in ways they had not predicted.
At a basic level, he said it's important to ensure you have a stable network, especially when it's being stressed by a surge in data.
“But more importantly, operators really have to get to the root cause and understand the impact these new devices have on the network. I think that lesson is being learned. Introducing new devices whose behavior is unknown will be approached with more caution in the future.”