Dealing with Chatty Apps

Jim Machi : Industry Insight
Jim Machi

Dealing with Chatty Apps

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When I was at LTE North America, I ran into Monica Paolini of Senza Fili Consulting who had just published a report about chatty apps and mobile signaling.  The report outlines the financial impact of all the signaling from chatty apps because the chatty apps utilize the network and network capacity and could cause congestion. Therefore, the network might not be able to maximize the amount of subscribers, or the network might have to add more infrastructure to handle the traffic.  Either way, there are costs to the carrier. You can download the report here.   

This was the first report I had read that attempted to outline this impact.  I won’t go into the details here since it’s Paolini’s report, but at a high level it goes into the impact that a mobile app will have on the network. The app isn’t “finished” once it downloads to your phone.  If it’s open, it’s continually talking to the network to get updates since the mobile user will expect the latest and greatest to their phone NOW.  In fact, when I’m doing email on my computer and I have my phone next to me, I often get the email to my phone before it comes to my computer.

We’ve seen the statistics on the amount of smartphones and we’re approaching 1.5 billion.  I’m sure by Mobile World Congress we’ll get a bunch of reports that show something like this.  Multiply that by the amount of apps on each smartphone (somewhere between 26 and 41) and how many apps are launched per day (about 8), and how many times that app talks to the network per hour (it all depends on how chatty the apps are but could easily be over 100 if say the app checks every 30 seconds) and you have a lot of network signaling going on.

There are various ways carriers can address this signaling. One is if that you can use network probes to attempt to find the chatty apps and chatty users.  Another is to use equipment added between the network and mobile apps that manages and optimizes the signaling traffic.  Diameter Routing Agents (DRA) also fill a role in managing the overall Diameter signaling traffic in an LTE network because they work to providing load balancing of the Diameter traffic to multiple PCRFs and can also detect Diameter signaling overload and work to moderate / control that traffic.  

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