With global mobile penetration on track to hit 100% next year and the number of mobile devices expected to hit the 6 million mark, the demand for mobile data is higher than ever before. DEON LIEBENBERG regional director for Sub Sahara Africa at Research In Motion (RIM) discusses how the need for more efficient utilisation of network bandwidth is essential for resolving the impending ‚capacity crunch’.
Global mobile penetration is on track to reach 100% in 2012, with the number of mobile subscriptions expected to hit the 6 billion mark, thus matching global population figures for the first time. This growth, combined with rising consumer expectation to be able to access ever more complex services on their mobile devices, means that demand for mobile data is higher than ever before. With a growing number of users consuming bandwidth-intensive mobile data services such as web browsing, video/media streaming, social networking and other data-hungry apps, is the world’s cellular telecommunications industry heading for a capacity crunch? Industry observers such as the respected analyst, Peter Rysavy, believe so, unless operators and handset manufacturers begin to examine certain elements of their business models. With the number of smartphone users expected to surpass the one billion mark by 2013, cellular networks and mobile technologies are only going to come under further pressure from a growing subscriber base. This may result in an increased number of dropped calls, slow webpage loading and applications which cannot pull down the required data, all of which combined will deliver a poor end-user experience and lead to frustrated, angry customers. Against this backdrop, operators and handset manufacturers face the challenge of sustaining this runaway growth in a scalable way. Handset manufacturers are incorporating features such as Wi-Fi access to their devices to address the challenge, while operators are building out their networks with next-generation technologies such as Long Term Evolution (LTE) and 4G connectivity. Promoting industry-wide efficiency Nonetheless, even these steps may not be enough to cater for the billions of new data users expected to flood the market over the next five years. Therefore, the industry must start to think about maximising smartphone infrastructures and improving their efficiency in order to most effectively utilise existing capacity. To date, the onus has firmly been on operators to tackle the capacity crunch, with many carriers in recent months increasing data tariffs and capping data usage. In addition, CCS Insight recently predicted that in 2011, operators will differentiate their tariffs and device subsidies to prompt users to consider less data-hungry devices and operating systems. However, the issue of network congestion is not the operators’ problem alone to solve: the industry as a whole needs to take responsibility for capacity constraints by incentivising efficiency through billing and encouraging handset manufacturers to innovate with scalability in mind. For Research In Motion (RIM), efficiency is part of the DNA of the BlackBerry solution. We believe that it is important to make efficient use of the bandwidth that is available if we are to provide both the best possible user experience and a sustainable path for future growth. A February 2010 report from Rysavy Research highlights how integral efficiency is to the BlackBerry solution. From network bandwidth conservation to battery life conservation, this report found that only the BlackBerry platform operates the concept of ‚just-in-time data‚ , whereby only as many bits as required are pulled down: this helps to make mobile email efficient for carriers, without impacting the end-user experience.
In addition, competitive tests conducted as part of this research illustrated that the BlackBerry platform uses one-third of data consumed by competitive browsers when surfing popular mobile websites. This represents a substantial saving in network traffic and lower costs for users on usage-based data plans. Ultimately, RIM’s heritage in efficiency ensures its BlackBerry smartphones offer consumers and professional users a best-in-class user experience. Thoughtful engineering at both the network and smartphone level can conserve network bandwidth and defer the capacity crunch. Given users’ rising expectations, the industry must focus on delivering a consistently strong mobile web user experience, in a sustainable and efficient manner if mobility is to deliver on its promise of bringing affordable Internet access to the mass-market population of Africa.