Opinion

Relief ahead for overloaded 3G networks, says Juniper Research

In recent months Network Noise has been on its own little crusade (in a manner of speaking) to raise awareness of the parlous state of Britain's mobile network infrastructure and the lengths that the network operators will go to to stop people getting the full benefit out of their smartphones, tablets or whatever.

We've all encountered sluggish 3G or HSDPA networks when trying to use smartphones at peak times, but up to now, the attitude of the mobile networks has been not to invest in providing better services, but to slap punitive usage caps on data users.

This has led to widespread consumer anger as T-Mobile found out to its cost earlier this year.

But now the pendulum could be swinging back in favour of the mobile operators, according to a new study from Juniper Research.

Analysts at the Hampshire-based research outfit now say that 63% of the total traffic generated by smartphones, tablets and feature phones will transfer onto the fixed network via Wi-Fi and Femtocells by 2015, taking the load off overworked mobile networks.

Juniper found that by the mid-point of the decade accelerating take-up of LTE actually meant that the percentage of traffic offloaded in some of the more developed markets would be on the decline. Despite this, the volume of traffic offloaded from mobile networks will still show strong growth.

As of the present day, Wi-Fi accounts for 98% of offloaded traffic, according to Juniper, with Femtocells yet to come into their own.

"As a high proportion of mobile data consumption occurs while indoors or in motion, operators have an opportunity to offload data traffic onto complementary fixed networks. Offloading also has the potential for creating new services and applications and enhancing the usage of existing services," said report author Nitin Bhas.

Bhas recommended that mobile operators view offloading as a complementary service to add to their own packages, saying they would be able to grab both market share and revenues from traditional operators.

This was first published in April 2011

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