Rush Hour On The Horizon For Data Networks
January 22, 2013

Skyrocketing Mobile Data Demand To Cause Wireless ‘Rush Hours’

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Soaring demand for mobile data will lead to spectrum shortages and periodic network slowdowns in the years ahead, according to the latest Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) predictions report from British consultancy firm Deloitte.

“This year´s predictions cover a range of topics, highlighting developments around Long Term Evolution (LTE), access to data, and smartphones,” said Jolyon Barker, global lead for Deloitte's technology, media and telecommunications industry.

The authors of the report predict smartphone shipments will reach a record-setting one billion units this year, helping drive a 50-fold increase in wireless traffic by 2016.

The resulting bandwidth crunch will create wireless network ℠rush hours´ in which data rates will slow, connections will be dropped, web pages may freeze and browsing speeds will be greatly reduced, Deloitte said.

"In the worst situations, download speeds may be under 1Mbps for lengthy periods of time, making video streaming impossible and even web browsing difficult," the report read.

However, fourth generation (4G) networks will likely help speed the passage of data, given their ability to utilize available spectrum more efficiently.

“There will be an upsurge in momentum behind Long Term Evolution (LTE), known as 4G in the UK, with the first operator launching late last year and the other major operators due to follow this year,” Barker said.

“The ability of LTE to deliver more data at faster speeds suggests the service will thrive in 2013.”

Indeed, the report predicts the number of LTE subscribers to triple this year, reaching around 200 million globally in response to higher demand and the falling prices of LTE chipsets.

The lower cost of pre-pay handsets should also encourage adoption, Deloitte said.

However, while the benefits of LTE are widely recognized, such as the ability to handle more traffic at faster speeds and more efficient use of finite spectrum, they come at a significant price. This includes costly network upgrades, spectrum purchases, marketing and LTE handset subsidies, all of which place potential constraints on the pace of LTE roll out, Deloitte warned.

Because of this, "demand for wireless bandwidth will likely attempt to outstrip improvements in supply for at least several years.”

"Major metropolitan areas in some geographies should expect to see continued deterioration in end-user experience."