Airvana: Smartphones create mobile network 'load multiplier effect'

While smartphones may not generate as much data traffic as USB modem-equipped laptops, they can be a source of capacity constraints in massive amounts because of the signaling load they generate, researchers from Airvana concluded.

Airvana said it has identified a significant mobile network "load multiplier effect" caused by smartphone data traffic. One smartphone typically generates eight times the network signaling load of a USB modem-equipped laptop, the engineers concluded after comparing data use profiles found for a given volume of data transmitted.

Although smartphones may only account for a minority percentage of all devices on operator networks today, they are always on, moving between cell sites and continually querying the network. As a result, smartphones are responsible for the majority of the total signaling activity, Airvana said.

Airvana's study dovetails a bit with comments from Alcatel-Lucent earlier this year. Mike Schabel, a research director at Alcatel-Lucent's research arm Bell Labs, said email is actually the biggest network clogger because it is inefficiently managed. He stressed that operators can't just look at how much traffic is sent but also how it is sent. Email is particularly problematic because it constantly queries the server to check for new messages and thus consumes almost 70 percent of a wireless data network's signaling resources. Moreover, Schabel added that a lot of applications--such as weather updates and stock tickers--operate in a similar manner to email by checking the network periodically.

Certainly, AT&T's struggles to keep up with data capacity for iPhone and other smartphone users have been well-documented.

For more:
- see this Airvana release

Related articles:
Email a bandwidth hog on mobile broadband networks
Two studies point to explosive mobile broadband growth
Operators embracing WiFi, but how far will they go?