Mobile phone networks face 'crisis' as data traffic surges
Source: Daily Telegraph
Mobile phone networks that allow users to access the internet or send videos could slow to a snail's pace due to the growing popularity of devices such as Apple's iPhone, technology experts have warned.
Network operators need to upgrade the 3G wireless network urgently, according to a report from Unwired Insight, which predicts that mobile web traffic will increase by more than 20 times over the next four years.
Smartphones, such as the Apple iPhone, rely on the 3G technology to surf the internet on the go, show TV, download music and share photos on social-networking sites. But the growing popularity of these data-hungry devices is helping to push the phone network to its limits, say analysts.
Watching an hour of YouTube clips is equivalent to sending a million text messages, while downloading a film over the 3G network equates to around 400,000 emails. And laptops that use a mobile broadband "dongle", which enable users to surf the web over the mobile phone network, are also putting a huge strain on network capacity.
The report, entitled "Will 3G networks cope?", warns that some operators face the prospect of 3G capacity shortfalls, where there will be more users than available bandwidth.
"We could face big problems in the next one to two years if the demand for mobile broadband keeps growing," said Dr Mark Heath, a wireless technology consultant who contributed to the report.
"It doesn't mean that mobile phone networks will crash, but what it does mean is that the network will be very congested. We will see a slowing down of the network's overall performance, and it will take longer to load web pages and download songs."
"We're going to see a lot of frustrated, dissatisfied customers who have paid for a service, and who don't feel that it delivers."
Network operators are investing extra money to ensure their data networks don't collapse under the growing strain. O2, which until recently had exclusive rights to sell the iPhone, said that data traffic was 18 times higher this year than last, and has just invested another £500 million to ensure their 3G network can cope with the increasing demand.
"The introduction of world class devices, in combination with a wide variety of data applications, has created an exponential demand on mobile data networks," said Derek McManus, chief technology officer at O2. The company's network has suffered a spate of crashes in recent months which has been blamed on increasing demand for data services.
The report from Unwired Insight warns that operators need to look at new technology to meet growing consumer demand for mobile data services. Dr Heath said that upgrades to existing infrastructure, and the opening up of more capacity when the Government auctions off the 3G spectrum next year, will not provide a long-term solution.
He said that devices such as femtocells, which boost mobile phone signal strength in the home, and the roll-out of so-called '4G' networks, known as LTE, would provide some additional capacity, but that network operators still faced a "bumpy road" over the next few years.
|Back to News Page|