Network capacity hit by a perfect storm

We really don’t want to be accused of running around shouting that the sky is about to fall on our heads like Chicken Little, but figures from Amdocs about the capacity crunch seem to indicate that not only is the sky falling on our heads, but in places it’s already fallen on our heads.

Rumours of an impending survey from Amdocs that show network operators worldwide are worried about a capacity crunch have been around for a few weeks. Now the survey is out and we can see what the fuss is all about.  According to Amdocs Jeff Barak service providers “have been caught in a “perfect storm” with data demand doubling year on year, yet revenues are remaining static due to flat- rate pricing.” Nineteen out of the thirty networks asked said they were experiencing network congestion and Cisco expects wireless data traffic to double every year from 2009 through 2014 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 108%. All in all, it looks very depressing for the future.

So what’s the solution?

Barak says service providers need to, “investigate the use of pricing strategies to shape and control capacity usage. They might even find that consumers are prepared to pay more if their quality of service, either on their browser or app, is appreciably better.” However while that sounds eminently sensible there’s other things to think about here. Once you start to charge for a quality of service, you have to guarantee that you can deliver on that, and from what we can see that’s going to be impossible given the current networks in the UK. If 100 people are all on the same train, all trying to watch YouTube and all with a guaranteed QoS the current systems aren’t going to be able to cope. Additionally the days of dial-up proved that once you start people meter watching they’re not going to go and download and act or buy in the way they do now. We need people to approach the mobile web in the same way that they approach the standard web, in a free and unfettered fashion, let’s not turn back the clocks and go back to the horrible days of bill-shock, or create a class-system for the mobile internet.

The only way the capacity issue is going to be solved is through technology, ideas like femtocells and better 4G technologies, and more frequencies released to the networks is the only way we will cope with the additional capacity. Tiered pricing is like wrapping a tourniquet on severed artery, it won’t solve the problem it just reduces the flow, and if it’s left on for too long it you’ll be left with no other alternative but to amputate.

Have a good weekend and remember take an umbrella because the sky is falling.

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