To say mobile data traffic is getting congested would be the understatement of at least the last year. That’s because in that span of time, traffic from mobile devices has grown 81 percent. To help manage this data tsunami and keep information flowing, Dr. Dinesh Verma, IBM Fellow, worked on technologies applying IT principles to wireless networks. He and his wife, Paridhi Verma, Government and Education Marketing Manager at IBM, put their findings in a new book, Techniques for Surviving Mobile Data Explosion, that details the challenge and solution. The Smarter Planet blog caught up with Verma recently for more insight.
Smarter Planet: How much mobile data are we talking about?
Dinesh Verna: A huge amount of mobile data! As a sample point, global mobile data traffic grew 81 percent in 2013, and by the end of 2013 had reached 1.5 exabytes per month. That’s up from 820 petabytes per month at the end of 2012.
To provide some perspective, the total amount of data transferred in one full year on the Internet was about 1 exabyte just a decade ago, in 2004.
SP: How rapidly is it increasing, and why is it a concern?
DV: Mobile data is roughly doubling every 10 months. It is a concern since mobile networks were not designed with this type of rapid data growth in mind. In some geographies, data is being transferred on networks designed for phone traffic. And in the US, while 4G/LTE networks are designed for data, they too have limited capacity – compared to the growth we’re facing.
SP: What would happen at the current mobile device growth, with the current infrastructure?
DV: This mismatch in the available capacity and demand will cause performance problems, as well as attempts by different players in the ecosystem to shift the costs of supporting this traffic to others. We already have price caps on data usage, and may see other efforts to curb our usage.
SP: What will we learn in the book?
DV: This book is about the different approaches that can be used to address the challenges of limited bandwidth. It examines these challenges from different perspectives: that of the mobile network operators, mobile applications developers, and enterprises that deploy mobile applications for their employees.
The book also provides a comprehensive and easy-to-understand overview of these approaches without using technical jargon or complex mathematics in a cross-disciplinary approach, spanning the areas of cellular networks, IP networks, and mobile application development.
SP: What should we – individuals to businesses – do today to curb potential network limitations and other issues?
DV: The actions each person or business can take depends on their role in the mobile ecosystem, from the users of the data, the network operators, and also services on the Internet that are accessible using mobile applications. Users can make efforts to reduce their data usage. Operators have a variety of techniques, such as technology upgrades, analytics software to optimize networks, and applying IT technologies like cloud computing to networks, that can manage the capacity mismatch. And service providers need to use techniques to manage bandwidth more efficiently.
SP: What are you doing to manage the data, and the network infrastructure, now?
DV: Within IBM Research, we have been developing techniques to help network operators manage the data mismatch. These include applying principles of IT technology, e.g. cloud computing to improve network operations to manage the data, as well as use of network analytics to understand data patters in the network, and improve the network infrastructure.
One instance of this convergence was the development of a mobile edge computing platform for wireless networks, announced jointly with Nokia Siemens Network last year. Our Research lab in China and China Mobile Research Institute is also using cloud computing for radio networks.
SP: How will things improve, and how quickly? Will it make a difference in where you live?
DV: A variety of factors improve how much and how fast things will improve. It makes a big difference where you live due to regulatory differences; the number and skills of network operators; and the technical capabilities and network infrastructure of the country, for example. Countries like Japan and South Korea are making a much more significant network investment than the U.S. and European regions – keeping them ahead of this data deluge.
To learn more about how to these rapid changes in mobile computing, read Techniques for Surviving Mobile Data Explosion.