Mobile devices: victims of their own success?

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disclosure: this post was written with the help of external contributors under the supervision of Yann Gourvennec and the Orange Business Services Internet and Digital media team

Mobile data traffic set to explode
As reported on October 22, 2009 in an article entitled "Migration to 3G/4G Backhaul" by M2M magazine: "Mobile data traffic has exploded, driven by a combination of high-speed air interfaces, flat-rate access, and the success of smartphones. There is, however, a risk that the backhaul part--base stations to the core network--will become bottlenecks and this would impact on the efficiency of many M2M (machine-to-machine) solutions."

On January 20, 2009, Cisco issued its Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast. The report suggests that global mobile data traffic will double every year for the next 5 years, multiplying 66 times between 2008 and 2013, to reach 2 exabytes (1 billion gigabytes) per month!

Everyone wants a smartphone
Laptops and high-end handsets are driving data traffic on mobile networks. These devices offer access to a wide range of content and applications--including video and peer-to-peer (P2P)--not supported by previous generations of mobile products. As Cisco notes in its report: "A single high-end phone like an iPhone or Blackberry generates more data traffic than 30 basic-feature cell phones. A laptop aircard generates more data traffic than 450 basic-feature cell phones."

Falling smartphone prices and the availability of flat-rate access are encouraging more consumers to buy these devices and use them to download applications and media. It's the equivalent of everyone trading in a fuel-efficient Smart Car for a petrol-guzzling SUV and watching the demand for gas skyrocket. In this case, we're facing snowballing data traffic with the potential for network overburden.

According to Gartner, global mobile phone sales grew 0.1% between the 3rd quarter of 2008 and the 3rd quarter of 2009 to reach 308.9 million units. During this same period, smartphone sales increased 12.8% to reach 41 million units.

In its October 2009 mobile metrics report, AdMob confirmed that Apple devices alone are now responsible for about 50% of smartphone data traffic worldwide. By 2013, Cisco estimates that smartphones and laptops with aircards together will account for over 80% of all mobile data traffic, nearly 64% of which will be video. 

What's being done?

A number of companies have already taken note of the challenge and are finding solutions. California-based Omnitron Systems Technology recently introduced a fibre access platform called the iConverter T1/E1 MUX that multiplexes up to 16 T1/E1 copper circuits and 1 10/100/1000 Ethernet UTP service onto a fibre optic link. In addition to extending multiple T1/E1s, the iConverter offers building-to-building PBX connectivity and 3G/4G mobile backhaul. The company also announced the iConverter GM3 NID, a new network interface device (NID) demarcation product that provides fault detection and performance monitoring to ensure compliance with Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

Another company out of California, BridgeWave Communications, announced recently that its FlexPort 80 GHz TDM+IP multi-gigabit wireless links have achieved European certification. "As European carriers and mobile operators migrate to next-generation LTE and 4G technologies, gigabit wireless links will play a crucial role in the backhaul of these networks," said Michael Heckrotte, director of Engineering at CCS.

The question remains to be answered: will this "smart" thinking be enough to create a smooth transition?

Yann Gourvennec

I specialize in information systems, HighTech marketing and Web marketing. I am author and contributor to numerous books and the CEO of Visionary Marketing. As such, I contribute regularly on this blog for Orange Business Services account on cloud computing and cloud storage topics.