NSN: Android & RIM Are Signaling Bad Boys

RIM and Android smartphones lag behind iPhone in supporting a standard that cuts signaling traffic on mobile networks, finds NSN

Michelle Donegan, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

June 15, 2011

3 Min Read
NSN: Android & RIM Are Signaling Bad Boys

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s Android and BlackBerry have not answered operators' calls to support a standard in their smartphones that will reduce the signaling load on mobile networks, according to recent tests conducted by Nokia Networks .

The news follows Light Reading Mobile's reporting on operators' growing concerns about the heavy signaling burden they have to deal with from overly "chatty" mobile applications. (See Operators Urge Action Against Chatty Apps and Angry Birds Ruffle Signaling Feathers .)

Now, NSN's Smart Labs -- which has been testing smartphones for their signaling impact on the network -- has found that devices based on the Android OS and RIM's BlackBerry OS do not yet support a 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) specification that reduces signaling traffic, called "Release 8 fast dormancy," which is also known as "network-controlled fast dormancy."

This feature sets parameters on how, and how often, a smartphone switches between idle and active modes while also preserving device battery life. The result is a substantial reduction in signaling traffic load on the network.

Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iPhone 4 has supported this feature since November last year, and mobile operators have universally mandated support for the standard from their device vendors. (See Apple Cuts iPhone Signalling Chatter and Operators Fight Back on Smartphone Signaling.)

But tests at NSN's labs show that Android and RIM devices don't support network-controlled fast dormancy.

Android and RIM have said they plan to support the standard, says Leslie Shannon, marketing manager for mobile broadband at NSN. "We have been testing accurately for it, but haven't found it yet."

Google and RIM's press offices did not respond to Light Reading Mobile's questions.

However, Johanna Dwyer, RIM's senior director of standards, did answer our request for confirmation. According to Dwyer, Release 8 fast dormancy is supported in all BlackBerry OS 7 devices, which are coming out this year.

So, RIM devices don't yet support network-controlled fast dormancy, as NSN has found, since the first two devices based on the new OS 7 -- that is, the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and 9930 -- won't be available from carriers until later this summer. (See RIM's BlackBerry Evolution Fails to Impress and BlackBerry: The Mullet of Mobility.)

Furthermore, since BlackBerry's OS 7 will not be supported on previous versions of the OS, this suggests that none of the BlackBerry maker's current devices will get the signaling reduction feature.

Android and RIM are chatty
Data from another test conducted by NSN in November 2010 showed that Android and RIM smartphones were responsible for generating the most signaling traffic for one European mobile operator. To illustrate how different smartphones generate varying amounts of data and signaling traffic, NSN measured both types of traffic by device type at one of its operator customers in Western Europe.

According to NSN's data, the iPhone generated 18 percent of the data traffic and 22 percent of signaling traffic. High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498)'s Android generated 8 percent of data traffic and 32 percent of signaling, while RIM produced just 2 percent of data traffic and 26 percent of signaling traffic.

By contrast, dongles accounted for 60 percent of the data traffic and 1 percent of signaling traffic.

-- Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

About the Author(s)

Michelle Donegan

Contributing Editor, Light Reading

Michelle Donegan is an independent technology writer who has covered the communications industry on both sides of the Pond for the past twenty years.

Her career began in Chicago in 1993 when Telephony magazine launched an international title, aptly named Global Telephony. Since then, she has upped sticks (as they say) to the UK and has written for various publications, including Communications Week International, Total Telecom, Light Reading, Telecom Titans and more.

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