Device operating systems

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

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:01:49 PM
re: NSN: Android & RIM Are Signaling Bad Boys

So when will Android support network-controlled fast dormancy?

shafeeq 12/5/2012 | 5:01:47 PM
re: NSN: Android & RIM Are Signaling Bad Boys

Android phones are ruling the smart phone segment, imagine the amount of additional signalling traffic these phones are generating in the networks. Google are you hearing this ?

rockhammer 12/5/2012 | 5:01:41 PM
re: NSN: Android & RIM Are Signaling Bad Boys

Can someone give some perspective? Of all the bits set thru the network, what % is data and what % is signalling?

somehow I have the feeling that the % mix is lopsidedly weighted towards data. But even if it was 1:1, 18+22 is still a lot higher than 2+26, isn't it?



Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:01:40 PM
re: NSN: Android & RIM Are Signaling Bad Boys

I'd imagine that the data bits are the overwhelming majority, but I don't have hard #s on that. Good question.

But signaling is handled by a separate part of the network, if I understand it correctly. So comparing data-bit volume to signaling-bit volume wouldn't be that useful; the problem is that the signaling side doesn't have the scale to handle a chatty smartphone world.

lshannon 12/5/2012 | 5:01:39 PM
re: NSN: Android & RIM Are Signaling Bad Boys

Leslie Shannon here from Nokia Siemens Networks -- Craig, you're absolutely right about signalling and data being handled separately in the network.  They basically occupy different buckets, and when 3G networks were being built, everyone focused on making sure that the data bucket was huge and could hold a lot because everyone knew there was going to be a lot of data traffic.  Signalling volumes are miniscule compared to data volumes, so everyone built an average-sized bucket for signalling and just forgot about it.  Then along came smartphones, with always-on apps that send tiny amounts of data every few minutes -- but each one of these connections has signalling traffic at the start and end that set up and break down the connection.  So everyone's got their eye on the data bucket, and they all go, "Oh, good, smartphones consume only about a tenth of the data that laptops do, so there's no problem," but no one's even looking at the signalling bucket, which then suddenly started overflowing in some cases, catching the entire industry by surprise.

And the real problem is that when you reach capacity on data, then you're not able to make new data connections.  Bad, but not disastrous.  If you reach capacity on signalling, you can't add any new VOICE connections, which is why signalling overload causes network problems that affect everyone.  Disastrous.  That's why all this matters, and why we all benefit whenever anyone in the industry actively takes steps to reduce signalling, as Apple has done.  Good on 'em!

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