It is reasonable to assume that the use of streaming music must have some impact on mobile network performance as well as device battery life, but just how much? Researchers at Nokia (NYSE:NOK) have quantified the impacts by testing the popular music streaming applications Spotify and Pandora.
In an entry on the company blog, Gerald Reddig, a portfolio marketing manager at Nokia Networks, explained that the Nokia Smart Lab tests were conducted "in a controlled, end-to-end LTE and WCDMA lab environment" on "the two most popular mobile operating system platforms." That would indicate Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android.
Reddig said the testing team used standby and busy profiles defined by Nokia Smart Labs to emulate real-life usage and behavior for the applications.
Not only did the tests reveal that the music apps have different characteristics (no surprise there), they also uncovered the fact that the same app can have different network impacts depending upon device platform.
"Spotify consumes more than double the amount of data (measured in megabytes) compared to Pandora when the user is actively listening to music. For users with a 1 GB per month data plan, this difference means they could listen to approximately 28 hours of music with Spotify and 54 hours with Pandora," Reddig wrote.
But Pandora didn't exactly come out smelling like a rose either. That app used up to six times more concurrent data connections compared to Spotify in one of the operating system platforms tested.
Spotify's "keep-alive" mechanism, as used in one of the device platforms during standby mode, resulted in a signaling load seven times higher than Pandora's. That keep-alive function in one of the device platforms also doubled Spotify's power consumption over Pandora's.
Both apps caused relatively high signaling loads due to their bursty data nature during busy mode. And both apps consumed similar levels of battery power during active listening when running on the same device. However, on one of the device platforms, the power consumption was significantly higher, according to Reddig.
Subscribers with capped data consumption plans may be incentivized to restrict their data use, but because there is no metering of the signal load generated by apps, users "have no incentive to choose applications with lower signaling demands," Reddig said.
The problem of "chatty" apps that generate high signaling loads, which can choke a radio access network (RAN), is not new. It has been vexing operators pretty much since the dawn of the smartphone, helping drive the market for traffic-optimization solutions. In fact, Reddig suggested operators optimize their network parameters to accommodate the signaling loads of streaming music to cope with the threat of such threatening apps.
"Additionally, application developers can help reduce battery power consumption by limiting the frequency of keep-alive messages from streaming music applications," he said.
Nokia Smart Labs are located in America, Europe and Asia.
- see this Nokia Networks blog entry
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