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BLOG: Are smartphones choking the Internet?

Ross O. Storey | Feb. 25, 2011
The United Nations forecasts that network congestion is worsening and governments need to urgently act.

  When a key United Nations (UN) body warns governments that they need to take urgent action to support broadband growth, it is a message that deserves to be taken seriously.

 The latest dire warning – of looming network congestion and bottlenecks - has come from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN’S leading agency for information and communication technology in a sneak preview of its forthcoming report ‘Trends in Telecommunication Reform 2010/2011: Enabling tomorrow’s digital world’, which will be available at the end of this month.

 The ITU pre-report announcement – released late last week (Friday, 11 February 2011) highlights some worrying statistics about the snowballing stresses on internet bandwidth.

 And, for those of us with enthusiastic expectations of a rosey tech future, the ITU report is something of a wet blanket.  

 It says that “Smartphone users already consume on average five times more data capacity than users of ordinary mobile phones. With the number of smartphones set to rise from today’s global estimate of 500 million handsets in use, to almost two billion by 2015, operators are already having to employ multi-pronged strategies to keep up with demand – and not all are succeeding.”

 Avoiding network bottlenecks

 ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré, said that accelerated fibre roll-out and greater spectrum availability will be imperative if network bottlenecks are to be avoided.

“Mobile operators have been investing billions to upgrade and improve the capacity and performance of their networks, but in some high-usage cities, such as San Francisco, New York and London, we are still seeing users frustrated by chronic problems of network unavailability.
“Robust National Broadband Plans that promote extra spectrum and the faster roll-out of the fibre networks which are essential to mobile backhaul are vital to support the growing number of data-intensive applications,” says Dr Touré. ITU analysis shows 98 countries have National Broadband Plans in place, with this number set to increase over the next year.
The ITU says that mobile broadband is “increasingly the technology of choice for hundreds of millions in the developing world, where fixed line infrastructure is often sparse and expensive to deploy”.


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