Smartphone data growth worries Vodafone CTO

While Vodafone's second quarter results have been lightly praised as an indication of recovery, the small increase in European services revenues was significantly helped by a 23 per cent rise in data revenues.

Although Vodafone accountants were rightly pleased to report this upsurge in data traffic, the company's UK CTO, Jeni Mundy, warned about the impact this smartphone-generated traffic was having on its network.

Pointing to sophisticated handsets such as the iPhone, Mundy said these devices were introducing a much higher level of signalling overhead, where the product was continually polling the network even when there was no user activity. But what seems to concern the CTO more was the adoption rate of this device category.

According to Vodafone, it expects smartphone usage on its network to rise from 20 per cent last year to 50 per cent in 2011.

Attempting to plan for this usage level is difficult, warns Mundy, and even when data transfer has been factored into dimensioning the network with regard to processor loads, the network can still struggle to cope.

"This is a problem that mobile network operators did not have to worry about in the past," said Mundy. "We work closely with device manufacturers to try to make sure their devices work optimally on our network," adding that she hoped Apple's Steve Jobs was listening to these operator concerns.

The company stated in its second quarter results that smartphone penetration in Europe was now over 14 per cent, with around 35 per cent of its European customers considered to be using a data product. Of note was that over 50 per cent of its smartphone customers were also reported to be buying additional data plans.

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