Rankings have arrived: Mobile Apps' Impact on Networks and Consumers

Next Generation Communications Blog

Rankings have arrived: Mobile Apps' Impact on Networks and Consumers

By: Josee Loudiadis, Alcatel-Lucent

Operators, consumers and application developers are fully interconnected in the mobile world. Yet they rarely recognize the impact they have on each other. That’s why Alcatel-Lucent has released its Mobile Application Rankings report — to increase awareness among consumers and the mobile industry and to promote app optimization. Here’s a sampling of the “blind spots” the report addresses:

Application signaling traffic

At this year’s Mobile World Congress, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg urged mobile operators to zero-rate Facebook, as part of an effort to bring the Internet to 2 billion new users, while simultaneously increasing operator profits. But, according to Analytics Beat, Facebook increased overall signaling load by 5-10% overnight, when new software was released. With this kind of lightning-fast impact, it’s easy to see why operators are reluctant to eliminate all charges for an app that could quickly become too costly to support.

And high signaling impacts consumers too, by increasing the battery drain on their devices. That means Facebook had another important reasons to resolve their enormous spike in signaling traffic — since revenues from mobile use are increasingly important to its growth. As a result, only 5 months later, a new, improved Android version was released. This version did more than “undo” the signaling increase — it actually improved signaling performance.

But Facebook had to learn about service providers’ predicament before choosing to optimize. And the optimization process also needed data that could pinpoint the cause of the signaling increase. Clearly, visibility into an app’s impact on mobile networks is key to reducing its cost of delivery — and to understanding how the app could be packaged in ways that benefit all parties. 

Battery and bandwidth consumption

Another blind spot is the lack of comparative information available to consumers. For example, WhatsApp announced at Mobile World Congress 2014 that it would be introducing a voice capability in the second quarter of 2014, which will “use the least amount of bandwidth.” But how many consumers know the precise amount of bandwidth and battery their current version of WhatApp consumes for texting? Very few. And even fewer know how that consumption compares with competing apps like Yahoo! Messenger or Kik. So how will anyone know whether WhatsApp uses the least data — and whether it will be less costly than Skype, Tango or their current voice plan?  

The Alcatel-Lucent Mobile App Rankings report provides some answers for the data consumption of the current data functionality:

  • On average, WhatsApp has higher overall costs, appearing at number 6 in these rankings. It’s followed by Yahoo! Messenger and Kik at numbers 10 and 17, respectively.
  • WhatsApp is heaviest in data volume, ranking at 14, compared to 28 and 30 for Yahoo! Messenger and Kik.
  • However, WhatsApp does have a lower battery drain profile: Its ranking is 10, compared to 3 and 8 for Yahoo! Messenger and Kik.

If you’re wondering what adding voice support to WhatsApp will do to your battery and data plan, check back with us. We’ll be watching.

As you can see, this impact report includes information that can spur collaboration between operators and app developers and support app optimization and packaging. Service providers can find out which apps impact their networks the most today — and which are on the Watch List (which shows the potential for network impact, if the app’s popularity grows). And consumers can benefit too, by learning about the average cost of popular apps on their data plans and the effects on battery life.

Alcatel-Lucent Analytics Beat studies examine a representative cross-section of mobile data customers using the Alcatel-Lucent Wireless Network Guardian and are made possible by the voluntary participation of our customers. Collectively, these customers provide mobile service to millions of subscribers worldwide.

Follow Josee on Twitter @joseeloudiadis

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