Smartphones to usher wave of 3G, drive network traffic up

During CommunicAsia 2010 Nokia says the third wave of 3G is being pushed by smartphones

The widespread adoption of smartphones across the globe is going to bring in the third wave of 3G networks use, consequently driving network traffic up and leading to congestion, executives from Nokia Siemens Networks remarked Tuesday.

During an offsite press conference at CommunicAsia 2010, Paul Tyler, head of sales, network systems, Nokia Siemens Networks Asia Pacific, said that the coming of the third wave of 3G use is currently being pushed by smartphones, which have overtaken 3G dongles in prevalence.

Tyler said the first wave was ushered by the promise of 3G in 2000, with that promise being realized in 2007 after the entrance of HSPA, HSPA+, and mobile broadband dongles.

Smartphones, however, are now more prevalent than 3G dongles, with at least one smartphone for every four dongles, a gap projected to grow bigger in the coming years, according to Tyler.

Skyrocketing adoption means good business for mobile phone vendors, but not necessarily for service providers. "Smartphones are very different from laptops," Tyler explained. "They have always-on applications, so networks easily get congested because they cannot easily cope with signaling."

Telcos are therefore challenged to address immense bursts in traffic from these devices--which is still predicted to rise by 10,000% in the coming years--while maintaining the quality of their services. "The opportunity lies in the operators' ability to differentiate on the level of user experience," Tyler noted.

Solution Points

One of the probable options operators can take is to increase capacity by implementing new technologies, according to Michael Murphy, the company's chief technology officer. "Each step in the [network technology ladder] reduces the cost/GB, and helps satisfy demand," he shared.

Currently, operators around the world are utilizing HSPA+ technology, with bids to move into commercial LTE (long term evolution) by the end of the year. Murphy pointed out that LTE-Advanced is three times more efficient than its basic counterpart.

Another option is to implement fair use policies in order to curb huge traffic demands. According to a Business Week study shared by Murphy, 80% of Internet traffic are coming only from 5% of end-users, thereby congesting the network for the rest of the users.

Murphy said telcos can break the buck by putting value on demand, which can be achieved by segmenting the market into different portions based on bandwidth. "[Operators] can monetize the bit pipe by assigning segmentations--such as Gold, Silver, and Bronze--to users, which can provide both fair use controls and differentiated tariff potential," he explained.

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