Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

There’s not an app for that…

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Mobiles may well have transformed the way we communicate over the last 25 years, but pity the poor mobile companies whose overloaded and somewhat creaky networks are charged with the responsibility of continuing to deliver this transformation.

Between Christmas and New Year, the CEO of Telefonica O2 might well have confessed to the Financial Times his disappointment in recent network performance in London – for which the iPhone bears a lot of the responsibility – but things are unlikely to get much better for network operators with today’s expected, and hotly anticipated, launch of Google’s own smartphone, apparently to be called the Nexus One. It is such phones, which have vastly increased the amount of applications requiring access to the net and which essentially provide the ‘killer app’ for mobile internet, which have led to mobile networks clogging up – i.e. O2’s, in the UK, at least until the running out of its exclusivity deal on the iPhone. Similar problems are sure to await other networks which may now offer the iPhone (such as Orange and Vodafone; while Tesco Mobile, which may also sell the iPhone, uses O2), to say nothing of the Nexus One and other similar models being brought to market. As far back as February, little more than half-way through its exclusivity deal, O2 had more than one million iPhone customers.

O2 has a variety of initiatives to deal with the network issues that smartphones have created, including in working with its network infrastructure suppliers, Nokia Siemens, to boost network capacity in the large urban areas where problems are at their worst. The different technical requirements of smartphones (data pulled from networks at short intervals) also cause unique traffic problems in terms of network congestion and there are some solutions to that at the infrastucture level. But O2 believes that, currently, mobile data usage is doubling every four months [subscription required; limited viewing time] – an explosion in demand which is unlikely to get any less over the next few years and which will demand continued network investment.

[Same-day edit: Interestingly, it has also been reported that Apple’s own long-awaited tablet pc may well not include a wi-fi link as Apple believes that the likely high demand for data via the device would make it ‘unsuitable for 3G’ and that the US networks are ‘not up to it’.]

Dealing with the network implications of smartphones is crucial to the continued development of the sector in the next few years, in addition to the expected load on the mobile industry stemming from Digital Britain initiatives. Let’s hope that 3G’s ‘killer app’ is not something that ends up killing the mobile network…

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Written by Calvin

05/01/2010 at 4:40 pm

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