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By: Josee Loudiadis, Director of Network Intelligence, Alcatel-Lucent
Data and signaling growth are usually good news for network operators, since growth often translates into higher revenues. But when growth is averaged over a month or quarter, the daily highs and lows of network activity are smoothed out. And signaling spikes remain hidden within the averages. These spikes can overwhelm available signaling capacity, which impairs the customer experience, as well as the operator’s reputation.
What happens when a spike occurs? Typically, a CPU Overload alarm appears on various mobile nodes. And the Network Operations Center (NOC) immediately starts praying that the burst is short-lived and doesn’t go over maximum peak-rate capacity. Because when that happens, all consumers are denied service access. Then, the process of identifying the source of the problem begins. This can be arduous, because it often involves applications completely out of NOC control. And the issue can’t be resolved easily without solid network analytics that enables engagement with application and device developers.
That’s the reason signaling information is a crucial part of the Alcatel-Lucent Mobile Apps Rankings report and why LTE World 2014 devotes an entire pre-conference day to the topic. It’s also why this blog offers a closer look at how some real-world disruptive signaling spikes got started — and were finally resolved.
The glass can be half empty or half full when it comes to mobile broadband.
On the one hand, data usage is growing at exponential rates, and seems to be no end in sight. In fact, it is projected that by 2017, the monthly mobile broadband usage of the average subscriber will reach 5 GB, according to research from Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs.
On the other hand, the emergence of LTE enables operators to more cost-effectively monetize this traffic demand by rolling out quality-of-service (QoS) guarantees for sensitive data traffic such as voice-over-LTE (VoLTE), as well as other data service packages that until recently did not make sense.
Finding the glass half full from the emerging data storm requires some planning when rolling out LTE, however. Network optimization is not a given. While LTE flattens IP traffic and enables new business models it also introduces new problems. Chief among them is increased network signaling rates.
Our last few blog posts on mobile intelligence focused on how changes to devices and their operating systems can affect both the user experience and the network in positive and negative ways as detected using the 9900 Wireless Network Guardian. Today we will explore the impact of changes introduced by a new version of a popular application.
Last year, Facebook released new versions of their mobile app for Android and iOS. Prior to the new release, Facebook signaling and airtime already accounted for 10% and 15% of the overall load on 2G/3G networks, respectively. As users around the world updated and started to use this new version, we quickly noticed a dramatic increase of almost 60% in the signaling load and 25% in the airtime consumed by the Facebook application. During the same period, the number of Facebook users increased by only 4%. Clearly, it is not the swelling of Facebook’s community that intensified the load, but rather the introduction of new Facebook features for mobile users and underlying platform changes.