iPhone: Could Multitasking Increase 3G Woes?

Considering the sheer volume of Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhones on the AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and mmO2 plc (NYSE/London: OOM) networks was the root cause of wireless capacity problems, some are wondering what will happen when Apple's operating system update adds multitasking to the mix.

Multitasking means users will be able to run more than one application on the phone at one time, something Apple fans have long clamored for. Apple said in April that multitasking in iPhone OS 4.0 will be available for the 3G smartphone this summer and the iPad tablet in the fall. (See Apple: Ads Get the i Treatment.)

The prospect has Fabricio Martinez, group SPM and director at Aircom International Ltd. , nervous: "It's just scary to think of multitasking on the iPhone. People are going to be running two or three applications in the background all the time on networks that just aren't designed to do that."

Congestion and interference in densely populated cities is caused by a large number of smartphones "shouting" at the radio access networks (RAN). Having smartphone applications constantly pinging the radio network controller (RNC) "creates a bottleneck," Andy Tiller, VP of marketing at femtocell maker ip.access Ltd. , elucidates.

Multitasking could potentially up the signaling problems that operators have already seen. "The bandwidth and session count per user will skyrocket as mobile devices become more capable of multitasking and cloud-based applications take hold," suggests deep packet inspection specialist Procera Networks in a recent blog. (See iPhone Troubles Might Go Beyond Signaling.)

Tiller suggests that femtocells could partly provide an answer to signaling problems, since they incorporate a radio network controller right in the box. "Operators need to do a lot of things... WiFi and femtocells will be part of the armory of weapons."

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

ashwin.kelkar 12/5/2012 | 4:34:21 PM
re: iPhone: Could Multitasking Increase 3G Woes?

I was under the impression that the network woes at AT&T and O2 due to the use of iPhone's was primarily due to signalling plane limitations rather than due to data plane limitations i.e. it was not because of the quantum of data that was pushed to and from the devices. I thought it was due to the number of times TCP sessions were established and terminated. If this is indeed the case, in my opinion, the advent of multi-tasking might in fact reduce the number of times the iPhone sets up and tears down a connection and thus in essence reducing the load on the signalling plane. And hence, am not too sure that the advent of multi tasking will necessarily increase the 3G woes.

I would imagine if a Pandora or a Skype application is running in the background, their connections are established all the time and the iPhone will not tear them down and bring them up frequently.

Gabriel Brown 12/5/2012 | 4:34:20 PM
re: iPhone: Could Multitasking Increase 3G Woes?

Battery life will likely moderate the network impact from multi-tasking.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 4:34:20 PM
re: iPhone: Could Multitasking Increase 3G Woes?

Their public statement on why the NYC and SF networks were "under-performing" and how they would fix it, indicates that there were problems with backhaul, signaling and older RAN equipment too.

They said they have or would:

- Replace network controllers in NYC and add additional backhaul. Capacity should be increased by “one third” , particularly in high volume areas of Manhattan.

- In San Francisco, meanwhile, the operator is adding high-capacity radios and more cell towers. CEO De la Vega had previously said that AT&T had seen problems in the financial district because older “microcells” installed there could not handle the deluge of 3G data traffic.



That might not cover the full picture but that's what AT&T has said so far.


comtech3 12/5/2012 | 4:34:19 PM
re: iPhone: Could Multitasking Increase 3G Woes?

I am sorry my friend,you don't seem to get it.The multitasking feature adds to the payload of the transmission,and has nothing to do with tearing down/setting up TCP  each time a request is made to a server,or peer.Unlike voice, data eats up a lot of BW and involved multiple retransmission in most cases because packets are out of sequence,plus multipart reception problem with a wireless mode of transmission, is a deep concern by operators.

NetworkOptimizer 12/5/2012 | 4:34:19 PM
re: iPhone: Could Multitasking Increase 3G Woes?

Yes, the problems seen by AT&T are due to the signalling problems. That is primarily due to mobile going to IDLE mode. When mobile wakes up, it will start creating a new data session and therefore adds lot of signalling overhead on RAN/Backhaul and Core.

Supporting multi tasking is very complex (depends on the level of multi tasking). If an application runs in the background all the time, that means the phone is active. So, this might not create more signalling message, on the other hand this will drain battery.

If application running in the backgroud communicates once in a while, that means the Radio connection is switching from IDLE to ACTIVE frequently, which will add more load in all the network components.

Gabriel Brown 12/5/2012 | 4:34:13 PM
re: iPhone: Could Multitasking Increase 3G Woes?

How the different OSes handle multi-tasking is of great interest.

My experience with Symbian and Maemo is that you can't leave chatty apps (IM, etc) running in the background because of the battery drain. You won't make it through the day. This induces "charge anxiety" which is worse than "bill shock" these days.

For all that I don't like Blackberrys that much, they deal with this problem reasonably well with BB Messenger.

It'll be very interesting to see how the new iPhone handles multi-tasking.



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