Published on November 20th, 2010 | by Babar Bhatti6
Rising Demands for Wireless Data Strains Operators
Even though network operators like to show ads with wireless data streaming to phones, in reality they are struggling to keep up with the demand. In a recent article, Technology Review explained the ongoing efforts by wireless carriers.
While the next-generation networks being built today will allow much more data to be transmitted over a given chunk of the spectrum, it is unlikely that they can keep pace with demand, which is growing at 55 percent annually in North America, according to ABI Research. When people get access to more bandwidth, their appetite grows commensurately. For example, users of Sprint’s first WiMax-capable phone, the EVO 4G, typically increase their data usage by a factor of three to three and a half.
An even bigger strain on the network will come from broadband modems used by larger devices like laptop, tablet, and even desktop computers. The research firm Infonetics predicts that by 2013, more North Americans will be connecting to the Internet with mobile broadband than with any other technology.
Wary of suffering a version of AT&T’s “iPhone problem” (users of the Apple device overwhelmed the network, leading to dropped calls), carriers are investing in techniques to predict and dissipate data congestion. Sophisticated models of what happens when, say, fans at a ball game all try to access the Major League Baseball website can be used to stress-test network infrastructure. Companies that sell hardware and software to manage heavy wireless traffic report growing interest from worried carriers.
Options include hardware that can switch data streams from an overloaded connection to less busy circuits or even gently slow video downloads to prevent calls from dropping during a usage spike. Many in the industry believe that these same techniques will eventually have to be used to reduce demand by bandwidth-hogging applications. Rather than preserving the flat-price model of wired connections, companies may charge customers different amounts for service, depending on the kinds of applications they access–more for streaming HD movies, less for making ordinary calls.