Last week, NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) suffered a major network outage in Tokyo that left 2.5 million subscribers unable to make voice or data calls for about four and a half hours. According to reports, the operator has pointed to a certain free voice application that runs on the Android OS as the main factor that led to the outage.
An operator spokeswoman confirmed that Docomo CEO Ryuji Yamada did say at a press conference on Friday (Jan. 27) that the operator wanted to talk to Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) about how to control this smartphone-generated signaling that is embedded in Android OS applications.
In addition, Docomo wants to work with other operators through the GSM Association (GSMA) on counter measures to deal with smartphone signaling.
The Docomo spokeswoman explained to Light Reading Mobile that the operator was in the process of upgrading its network on Jan. 25 to cope with the increase in signaling traffic from smartphones. Within hours of the new system being activated, it was not able to cope with the level of traffic, which is something the operator did not expect, she explained. The service outage started at about 8:30 a.m. and lasted until about 1:00 p.m.
This sounds like a network upgrade that went wrong for Docomo and caused the outage. But the underlying problem the operator was attempting to address is the surge in signaling traffic on its network, which, in this case, appears to be generated from Android-based smartphones in particular. The majority of Docomo's smartphones run on Android, so this is a big deal for them.
It's difficult to see what mobile operators can actually do about this other than continue to upgrade network capacity. And it's not the first time the search giant's mobile OS has been singled out for its signaling burden on the network:
- NSN: Android & RIM Are Signaling Bad Boys
- Angry Birds Ruffle Signaling Feathers
- Operators Urge Action Against Chatty Apps
- How O2 Stamped Out Signaling Noise
- Apple Cuts iPhone Signalling Chatter
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile