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Can femtocells solve smartphone signalling overload?

19 октября 2009

 Smartphones set to drive huge increase in signalling load.

We have written before about how it is not just the quantity, but the nature, of mobile data traffic that mobile operators need to be concerned about. Now we have received some stats from Airvana that purport to show that a typical smartphone is eight times more demanding of the signalling network than a laptop or notebook dongle.

If you didn’t click the link, the gist of that article was that “always on” applications like push email, location and IM might be a lot lighter in terms of the load than a P2P session or video stream, but are a lot heavier in terms of the network signalling resources they consume. This is because they continually ping the network with or for updates, which mobile signaling networks are not best equipped to deal with.

What mobile networks are good at is setting up sessions, like voice conversations, and then taking them down when they are finished. This is why video streams and file sharing are not so intensive on the signalling.

Airvana’s theory goes like this. Although a smartphone generates only 4% (1/25th) of the traffic of a connected laptop, it takes up 33% (1/3rd) of the signalling support needed by a laptop. If you divide 25 by 3, you get 8, meaning a smartphone is eight times less efficient than a connected laptop in terms of its consumption of network signaling resources.

So the question is, does this matter? After all, all phones, smartphone or otherwise, poll the network all the time, because they are mobile, and always on. But David Nowicki, vice president, Marketing and Product Management, said that it is the traffic type generated by smartphones that means that operators will be facing an additional load as more and more consumers adopt the devices.

Smartphones also simply generate more data than featurephones, and run more applications, meaning that the information required from the network also increases.

Figures we have from network optimisation specialist Byte Mobile would back this up. They show that the percentage of mobile data traffic from laptops on networks of operators with the iPhone are half those of those without the iPhone.

So is this a pressing problem? Nowicki said that it is hard to generalize, as different operators experience different usage, but  pointed out that smartphone sales are set to boom. Global annual shipments of smartphone handsets are projected to increase from nearly 200 million in 2009 to 450 million in 2013, according to market research firm iSuppli Corp. In the U.S., AT&T recently reported that smartphone penetration in their postpaid subscriber base has doubled to 36 percent and Verizon reported that 40 percent of their handsets sold in Q2 2009 were smartphones. Similarly in Western Europe, industry analyst IDC recently reported 25percent growth in sales of smartphones in Q2 2009 compared to Q2 2008. In other words, if this isn’t a problem now, then it soon might be.

So what can be done?

Well, Nowicki said that one answer is to look to offload smartphone traffic off the network using femtocells. The advantage of this is that signalling resources can then be localised and targeted to the actual source of the traffic.

It should be noted that Airvana stands to benefit greatly from widespread femtocell deployment. Does Nowicki think that deploying femtocells, with all the marketing, customer care and support overheads that come with something like that, is the most efficient way of solving increased load on an operator’s signaling resources?

“A femtocell solution pinpoints things. It introduces the spatial domain to signaling, which is something that needs to be brought in, and makes the targeting of resources more precise. And if an operator deploys femtocells for his own purposes, then he does not need to enter the same level of marketing and consumer engagement than if his femtocell launch is all about the services.”
Nowicki said.

by Keith Dyer

Источник: Mobile Europe

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