There can be few people in the tech industry who have not been drawn into discussions on the impact of Apple’s announcements at this week’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The launch of the company’s iCloud service has once again raised debate as to network capacity, especially from a mobile perspective. This news comes less than a week after the release of Cisco’s VNI report that highlights mobile traffic is already anticipated to increase 26-fold by 2015. As Apple moves gradually into the cloud, there can be no question that this figure will only increase.
Looking at Apple’s history, it’s incredible to consider how the company has redefined the mobile market, opening new avenues of communication, education, entertainment, and just about every other area that impacts upon our daily lives. By 2015, analysts estimate that there will be over one billion smartphones generating 6.3 exabytes of data per month. Much of this data will be driven by video, whether it be video conferencing over Skype, watching a movie on Netflix or online gaming. Indeed, Cisco predicts that 90% of all IP traffic will be video by 2015. Mobile devices are set to account for 8% of this total.
These figures heavily underline the fact that mobile video is here to stay. One need only look at the number of mobile video streaming apps that are being developed to see this. In response to this growth, chipset makers are now working with companies such as Skype and Netflix to embed video codecs directly into the silicon. By introducing video support directly on the hardware and not purely at the application layer, manufacturers are starting to realise that they need to reassess how they respond to the growing appetite for mobile video. Introducing it to the silicon is a major step forward, but this needs to be reflected throughout the mobile ecosystem to ensure a greater quality of service.
The hardware is only one piece of the puzzle though. What’s key is that mobile carriers also rise to the challenge and build networks that can accommodate the massive growth in data demand. Without question, LTE and 4G networks alone will not be able to respond to this traffic growth. In an earlier post, I discussed if WiFi could be the solution. However, we are still yet to see any real progress here in regards to WiFi offloading or the rollout of citywide WiFi blankets. Still, the comments on my previous post do suggest that there is a growing momentum from mobile carriers to move forward.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating parts of this discussion is the relationship between Internet companies and mobile carriers. We’ve already seen the demands from mobile carriers that Internet companies, such as Google and Apple, should be responsible for shouldering some of the costs for rolling out LTE and 4G networks. After all, it’s their devices and applications that are creating the data congestion. Until now, it appeared that very little progress had been made here, but reports from France suggest that discussions are starting to move forward.
A recent article from Gigaom details how Google is working with France Telecom to offer users the opportunity to pay for faster and more stable services. The profits from these services would then be split between Google and France Telecom. Whether this is within the boundaries of Europe’s net neutrality laws is a larger question. However, it does show that there is definite movement here and a greater sense of collaboration to answer the growing mobile bandwidth demand. Other reports suggest that Google is working with carriers to help users understand how they can reduce their bills by more effective data monitoring.
With no end to data caps and increasingly congested network, it’s essential that the dialogue between Internet companies and mobile carriers continue. Without it, we will never truly be able to respond to the enormous challenges ahead and the continued march of video services.
How can mobile carriers answer the growing challenge of mobile video services? Do we need to reconsider data tariffs especially as we migrate to LTE and 4G networks? Should Internet companies such as Google and Apple be responsible for contributing to network improvement costs? There are lots of questions to consider here, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.