Introducing TikTok, the latest headache for mobile network engineers

Verizon's top networking executive said that YouTube, Facebook and Instagram – in that order – are the three most popular applications on the operator's wireless network, in terms of the amount of traffic they generate.

But he said there's a new contender in the mix: TikTok, a short-form mobile video offering popular with the kids these days, which has recently jumped into fourth place on Verizon's mobile network.

Verizon's Kyle Malady made the disclosure Wednesday during the operator's daily COVID-19 briefing for Verizon employees and customers. The news is noteworthy considering that Verizon is the largest wireless network operator in the US with close to 100 million mobile customers.

However, TikTok's rise isn't necessarily a surprise, given its leading position on smartphone app stores.

Nonetheless, TikTok is clearly something that mobile network engineers in the US and elsewhere may need to become familiar with. That's because network engineers – both in wired and wireless networks – must prepare for major new sources of traffic.

For example, the popularity of the new Call of Duty: Warzone game – all 100 GB of it – helped place additional stress on networks that were dealing with coronavirus-related traffic spikes. Partly in response, Microsoft, Sony and Akamai agreed to take steps to reduce the amount of online traffic that video games generate during peak usage hours.

Simillary, Netflix and YouTube agreed to reduce their streaming video bitrates in Europe and elsewhere amid the COVID-19 pandemic to ease traffic on some service providers' overburdened networks.

And those kinds of networking issues are not exclusive to the pandemic. For example, T-Mobile in 2010 reported about an unnamed Android IM app that almost caused "an overload of T-Mobile's facilities for an entire city."

Already, Chinese-owned TikTok has raised security concerns among some in Congress. Now, it may well be raising concerns among some network operators too.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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