CTIA enlists cellular users in the battle against wasteful apps

Tammy Parker, FierceWirelessTechCould educating customers regarding the amount of bandwidth gobbled up by their favorite applications help them better manage their app usage and help mobile networks rein in congestion caused by data traffic? That question might be answered by CTIA's new KnowMyApp database, which gives users the ability to estimate an app's data usage prior to its download.

KnowMyApp.org initially includes test results for only the 50 top paid and free apps from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) stores, though CTIA said more apps will be added each month. Members of CTIA's Application Data Usage Working Group helped develop KnowMyApp. Intertek then developed the mobile app data usage benchmark testing using AT&T's (NYSE:T) Application Resource Optimizer (ARO), an open-source diagnostic tool.

KnowMyApp differs from proprietary tools that mobile subscribers can use to improve their mobile data experience after they download apps. For example, Onavo, which was acquired in October by Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), has developed utility apps designed to help smartphone users understand the data-impact of particular apps on their smartphones and compress that data to slash the megabytes consumed.

While efforts such as Onavo's are targeted toward individual smartphone users, KnowMyApp signals an industry-wide campaign via which mobile operators might be able to enlist their entire subscriber base in an effort to discourage the use of apps that unnecessarily suck up bandwidth, convincing end users to, in effect, become spectrum stewards. This approach could aid carriers as they wrestle with skyrocketing data traffic on their networks.

According to the New York Times, wireless industry analyst Chetan Sharma recently estimated that U.S. consumers used a whopping 1.2 GB of data per month over cellular networks during 2013, nearly double the 690 MB used monthly during 2012. In a blog entry, Sharma also said that some Android devices are consuming over 4 GB per month on average in the United States.

Sharma has also said that monthly cellular data consumption worldwide during 2013 was 240 MB, much less than what was consumed in the United States, but still higher than the 140 MB consumed each month globally during 2012. And there are notable pockets of high data consumption, such as Sweden, where Sharma said mobile broadband subscribers have been consuming in excess of 7 GB per month.

Sharma's estimates highlight the pressures being brought to bear on mobile data networks. So, will users give up using YouTube version 5.2.27 if they see on the KnowMyApp website that particular app sucks up more than 3 GB per month on average when used on a Samsung Galaxy S4 on AT&T's network? Well, they might if their monthly data plans include less than 3 GB of data. Alternatively, they might just make sure they only access YouTube over Wi-Fi rather than cellular.

In fact, Wi-Fi has already emerged as a "white knight," according to Sharma, who said its importance grew during 2013, with up to 70 percent of mobile data traffic being carried over Wi-Fi networks in most countries.

A side benefit of CTIA's new database is that could encourage developers to create more data-efficient apps. To that end, CTIA is inviting developers to submit their apps for testing and inclusion on the website.

Perhaps having their creations listed on such a public database might encourage app developers to compete for "most-efficient app" bragging rights. I don't actually envision that happening, but if it did, that could go a long way toward easing mobile network congestion.--Tammy

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