I recently spoke with Chris Wade, CEO of Shozu, a mobile application developer. Wade said something that I think everyone knows deep down but few want to admit. “Consumer desire to generate and consume mobile data will exceed that of the bandwidth available from any network,” he said, calling this particular truism one of his very own Mobile Laws. Let’s call it Wade’s Law of Insatiable Appetite.
Does the law prove out? We’ll have to wait and see. However, as the carrier ecosystem currently stands, AT&T is probably the most of aware of how this law applies to network management and the recent adoption of smartphones. When considering the quagmire presented by the iPhone, one has to wonder if anyone really had a clue as to the demands the device would place on a 3G network.
Now that we’re aware of the needs of the smartphone, it’s clear that 4G will not be the limitless playground it has been made out to be. Sure, a faster network will be accepted with open arms. The OEMs, application developers and content providers love to imagine a future 4G utopia where bandwidth isn’t an issue. Carriers know better, and realize that the increasingly sophisticated products offered by the aforementioned players are exactly the reason 4G is a necessity and not a luxury.
Quarter after quarter, smartphone sales are on the rise. Most recently, Gartner reported what is quickly becoming a trend – overall mobile sales down, smartphone sales up. More specifically, Gartner reported a 27 percent increase in smartphone sales for the second quarter of 2009 over the same period last year. Regardless of whether that’s because more phones are being categorized as smartphones, it still represents an exponential growth in the number of devices on the network that are capable of devouring bandwidth on a massive scale.
Consumers and analysts continue to gripe about the high cost of data, but as AT&T sputters its way towards HSPA 7.2, more and more of the industry appears to be conceding that YouTube, combined with an iPhone, is a combination that demands respect (and restrictions).
Will YouTube and other services like it still be relegated to Wi-Fi in a 4G world? No one really knows. However, it is a near certainty that the number of people with mobile devices capable of accessing streaming video is going to rise right along with network capacity. In short, it’s probably more accurate to think of 4G as a “cost-of-living” increase rather than an extravaganza of unlimited bandwidth.
Filed Under: Infrastructure