June 1, 2010
5:10 PM -- It's sometimes hard to not feel a tiny twinge of sympathy for mobile operators dealing with the data deluge on their networks.
The sheer complexity of supporting large amounts of simultaneous data traffic on networks that -- at their root -- were intended mainly for voice calls is mind-boggling.
For instance, as far I can tell, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s problems with its networks in NYC and San Francisco last year stem from a combination of network controller signaling problems, inadequate backhaul, and old radio equipment. All of which involves spending money to upgrade the network, hence the extra $2 billion that AT&T is spending on wireless this year.
And it's not even clear to me that AT&T can just throw money at the problem to fix it. It is less easy to control mobile in a world where people expect to able to download a massive video file anywhere while maintaining an instant message conversation with friends and still be able to make and receive good quality phone calls. Witness the chatter about Verizon Wireless spending more on CDMA to prep for its own iPhone.
Long Term Evolution should go some way toward fixing the signaling problems with smartphones, simply because operators will be able to dedicate more bandwidth to the signaling channel. LTE is going to put even more strain on backhaul networks though, and we'll likely hear users yelling about lack of coverage and CDMA-to-LTE handoff issues to begin with.
So, like I say, a twinge of sympathy from me when it comes to carriers dealing with data issues. But not too much -- remember that the carriers wanted it this way, have been advertising the "mobile Internet" for years before it arrived, and are generally still making big money on data right now.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile
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