Chatty smartphones stressing networks

While activities such as video streaming get lots of blame--and rightfully so, for causing skyrocketing mobile network traffic--another somewhat overlooked activity is causing considerable network angst, and most users are not even aware of it.

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Constant pinging from popular smartphone applications is also responsible for raising the volume of signaling on mobile networks. According to vendor Seven Networks, in a 24-hour time period an app set to poll for updates every five minutes will generate 298 connection attempts.

"Wireless signaling is a tricky topic because oftentimes it's hidden, happening in the background without any user knowledge, but is growing bigger by the minute as more users download more connected applications," said Isabelle Dumont, Seven's head of marketing.

Doing some worst-case scenario multiplication, Seven has estimated that signaling generated by popular mobile apps on phones using Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android OS could rack up 25 trillion signaling events per hour worldwide. The company came to that conclusion based on the daily activation of 850,000 new Android devices for a total of 300 million in market, each averaging 35 downloaded apps, some of which ping the network up to 2,400 times per hour, each time establishing a new connection and generating up to 30 network signaling events if the radio is idle and needs to be turned on.

Seven is marketing its Open Channel traffic-optimization product, which is designed to reduce unnecessary signaling by only connecting devices to the network if updates are available. The company claims its product can reduce the amount of smartphone-generated signaling by as much as 40 percent and bandwidth by up to 70 percent.

Mobile operators are searching for these types of solutions because whenever their signaling channel is overloaded, requests for calls cannot reach the network, meaning the device cannot access the network for voice or data service. Last summer, executives from some of Europe's largest operators said during the Open Mobile Summit in London that more action needs to be taken to keep mobile applications from overloading their networks with signaling traffic from smartphones.

For more:
- see this Seven release

Related articles:
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Seybold's Take: Apps should not overtax the network's signaling system
Operators cry out for solution to network signaling congestion
What's really causing the capacity crunch?
Smartphones causing network data overload, claims O2