Smart Phones and the Battle for Bandwidth

If you watch the news at all, you’ve more than likely heard our current president talk about how we need to solve 21st century problems with 21st century technology (referring to our outdated methods of approach to current problems), and if you’re a CSPAN listener, as I am, you’ve heard more and more congressional hearings involving the high-level FCC personnel and other technology advocates lobbying for increased funding for upgrades to our nation’s communications superhighway, citing it’s outdated ability to handle the communications loads of the 21st century.

This issue is becoming more and more urgent by the day as Americans, and people all over the world, are changing the way they access information. Since the inception of the Smart Phone, information consumers are no longer chained to a terminal at a desk, and are able to access information anywhere, at any time, and for any length of time. This is beginning to cause some serious problems.

If you and your Smart Phone were anywhere near Austin, TX, in mid march of this year, for the South by Southwest Music, Film, and Interactive Festival, you probably experienced data and voice outages (or both). This was caused by an influx of iPhone users in the area at that time. These individuals, excited to try the newest apps for their iPhone coalesced in such great numbers, and used bandwidth to such a degree that they for all intense purposes shut down the AT&T wireless network. This caused outrage amongst the iPhone community who went on to trash AT&T on Twitter and various blogs.

AT&T is currently feeling this pressure more than any other carrier as it’s users of the Apple iPhone are currently the largest consumers of data out there, with the average iPhone user consuming up to four times more data than the typical wireless subscriber.

The networks of today simply aren’t designed to accommodate current user’s appetite for information. The problem isn’t so much one of an amount of data being accessed, but rather the fact that users of Smart Phones are always on the move, accessing data from different points on the network, for varying lengths of time, and when the lunch whistle blows, and everyone decides to log on, the result can be a total halting of wireless services.

According to AT&T’s chief technology officer, John Donovan, “3G Networks were not designed for this kind of usage. We fight day to day guerilla warfare as our customers move around”. But…AT&T is not complaining citing that the Apple iPhone is a problem that, “other carriers would love to have”.

This problem, however, is only going to increase in intensity as time passes. Users of Google’s Android platform are just as information hungry, and though this platform is only currently available on select phones, other wireless carriers are catching on to user’s love of the touch screen functionality, and we should be seeing Android on several new phones in the spring of 2010.

The solution to this problem is one that is, unfortunately, going to take time to implement. The process to upgrade our nation’s wireless grid to 4G technology will take years, and wireless carriers will more that likely have to resort to other means to keep our current networks from becoming overburdened. Some carriers have thought of limiting which applications can be accessed on their devices, but ultimately the short term solution will come down to money. Charging less for users who use little bandwidth, and charging premium prices for those users who are “bandwidth hungry” should, for the foreseeable future, help to slow the growth wireless bandwidth consumption. Hopefully this solution will work long enough to allow for the needed upgrades to our communications infrastructure, or until new technology presents new solutions.

Post By Lewis Van Tassel
Lewis is an Education Manager for
Omnistar Email Marketing Software

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  1. Comment From Kevin Hopes

    Hi Lewis

    Hope the bandwidth issues will be solved before Android hit the markets. I am an Iphone user and I have experienced the lack of availability of bandwidth myself. In current situation if more products are released, the fight for bandwidth is going to be more crucial. Lets wait and watch

  2. Comment From Mark Collins

    In my opinion there is only one solution. Upgrade the network or switch to other technologies like WiMax. It is time to move on. AT&T should be ready by 2010 to satisfy the bandwidth requirements when more brands will release Android based phones.

  3. Comment From Harry

    Charging as per usage of bandwidth is a good option to reduce number of people using Smartphones. But still the problem persists because if everyone is ready to pay, then what? So it is really necessary to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

  4. Comment From Brian Walker

    AT&T should really implement new ways to meet the requirements of growing numbers of Smartphones. They can beef up the bandwidth in places which are likely to have more usage using additional equipments or accessories. Consumption of bandwidth is four times more by an Iphone customer compared to normal phone subscribers.

  5. Comment From Edward Jones

    Good post Lewis
    Smartphone users are really bandwidth hungry. I am also an Iphone user and I use mine daily for a variety of services. But as far as I am concerned I have never had any problems with bandwidth so far.
    But with increasing number of users I get a picture of tomorrow.
    AT&T is sure going to handle this problem by then.

  6. Comment From Liz

    Smartphones use a considerable amount of bandwidth. I agree to your view on charging more to people using more bandwidth and less for those using less.
    Hope Android will make the expected changes in the current market.

  7. Comment From Christopher

    Hi Lewis

    Bandwidth has been a big headache for carrier AT&T lately. The solutions you have pointed here are good. They need to take into consideration the scenario they’ll be in, when Android based phones are going to be available in large numbers in the market. So definitely AT&T should consider this matter with importance.


  8. Comment From Linda Clark

    A growing number of smartphones come equipped with support for both higher download and upload speeds. So I agree to what Lewis has said -‘Battle for Bandwidth’. If a place is swarming with Iphone users, a Battle is certain for Bandwidth.

  9. Comment From Nelson

    It is true. Read in a recent article that Smartphones demand more bandwidth than wireless laptops. Smartphones may generate up to eight times as much load as a laptop with a data card (even when delivering the same amount of data). So as the number of Smart phone users increase a decline in wireless services can be expected.

Comments are closed.