Friday, January 6, 2012

Apple’s Siri Feature Doubles IPhone Data Usage

Apple's voice recognition software, Siri, seems to encourage people to make more intensive use of data on their iPhones. In fact, some iPhone 4S users studies by Arieso seem to have doubled their data consumption as iPhone 4 users and three times as much data as iPhone 3G users, Arieso says.

And though one might dispute what it actually means, Arieso also finds that one percent of all mobile data users now consume 50 percent of all downstream capacity. In other words, extremely-heavy users now have become even heavier users of mobile data capacity.

Those changes in behavior illustrate the reasons there will never be “enough bandwidth.” As developers and users find they have more processing power, memory and bandwidth, new input and output methods and types of devices, developers create new apps and features that use those capabilities, and as Arieso has found, people respond.

Decades ago, serious cable TV engineers would scratch their heads when, about every five years, it was possible to double bandwidth. “What will anybody want to do with all that bandwidth?” they used to ask themselves. Telecom engineers probably can recall having similar thoughts. But it happens. Bloomberg notes that Apple’s Siri feature alone doubles data usage.

The point is that users seem to consume more mobile network bandwidth every year for a variety of reasons, ranging from heavier consumption of video to heavier use of their devices for other reasons, and sometimes because applications require more bandwidth.

Consider the shift from web browser operations to use of mobile apps. As it turns out, using a mobile app is itself more bandwidth intensive than the same operation using a Web browser. So virtually every trend in user behavior and application behavior is pushing towards consumption of more bandwidth.

Arieso's study of mobile bandwidth use also found that Google Nexus One users make twice as many data calls as iPhone 3G users. Arieso network study 

The Arieso analysis compares the data consumption of users of the latest smartphones against the iPhone3G as a “normalised benchmark”. The study found that different users and different devices exhibit very different demands on the network.

The most significant change in consumer behavior between 2010 and 2011 is the finding that iPhone 4S users download 2.76 times as much data as users of the iPhone 3G.

And while an Android-powered device maintains last year’s position at the top of the table for uplink data volumes, with HTC Desire S users typically uploading 3.23 times as much data as iPhone 3G users, the iPhone 4S falls just behind in this category with a typical 3.20 times as much data uploaded, Arieso says.

Using the iPhone 3G as the benchmark, though, many other devices place differential loads on mobile networks. In terms of data calls per subscriber, for example, three devices over-index compared to the iPhone 3G.

Since mobile networks are limited by spectrum allocations in ways that fixed networks are not, mobile networks are going to require more intensive management than fixed networks, irrespective of any “public policy” concerns about potential anti-competitive behavior on the part of mobile service providers. 

Some would say the most pernicious idea is that “all packets should be treated alike,” in terms of prioritization. But all bits are not equally valuable, nor are all applications equally tolerant of congestion and delay. Voice and video are good examples of delay-sensitive apps, but any user also will attest that when buying an airline ticket online, delay and latency are important issues.

Since mobile networks feature more latency than fixed networks network management is more crucial, to maintain end user experience. Bandwidth consumption is one genuine issue. But latency is the other important issue.

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