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The Data Capacity Crunch: Are we still in it?

It has now been almost exactly a year since I published the Data Capacity Crunch video series (kindly supported by Amdocs). I produced the series in conjunction with the team at Mobile Entertainment. We interviewed a number of leading executives from around the industry discussing the issue of the ‘data capacity crunch’.

Broadly speaking, it wasn’t good news back then.

365 days later, how much has changed?

I’d go so far as to say things have got worse.

If anything, I suspect our tolerance for poor network speeds has increased. Am I right in saying that in the UK at least, we tend to put up with poor network speed now? There’s not much you can do in terms of recourse, beyond calling up and demanding a bit of credit from your operator.

It’s a given that you’ll often encounter stupid-slow connectivity, especially in heavily congested areas of key metropolitan areas. Indeed, I feel it’s more likely that I’ll get faster service in the wilds of the countryside provided I’m reasonably near the cell tower.

I’m astonished that, as an industry, nothing much seems to have been done. Emphasis on seems, obviously. Anecdotally it feels worse. What’s the real story?

And what’s the future going to look like across the next few years? I do wonder. In the UK at least, we’ve generations of people upgrading to smartphone technology now. Is it really going to get better before it gets worse?

I still see people streaming videos via their operator connections when they clearly shouldn’t be. I almost have to grimace when I witness it. Last week I saw one chap trying to stream what looked like iPlayer on his iPhone on the train. It was obviously stopping-and-starting every 30 seconds and, I can only imagine, hosing the network capacity in each cell.

Perhaps, though, the ridiculously low data allowances now routinely sold with contracts are encouraging users to ration their data usage? I hope not. Well, I hope it’s had some effect. But the last thing we need — as an industry — is to breed legions of users who, afraid of billshock, simply avoid using data, period.

I’m afraid all I’ve got at the moment is anecdotal evidence though. I don’t think anything’s got better. I don’t feel like the networks have improved anything. If anything I feel they’ve gone backwards. Has anyone implemented traffic shaping to speed Youtube videos to my handset? If so I’ve not noticed a better service. Bad news or good news?

I can’t help but think we’re still at the start of this capacity crunch.

So I’ve decided to do a bit more research. Some of it will appear here, some of it will just help me to be better informed. I would like to meet and hear from anyone that has some perspective — particularly:

– Operators – what are the problems you’re facing right now? Does it affect you at different times, locations etc? What are your predictions for the future?

– Developers – how is this affecting you? Are you aware of it when developing (do you use less video for example)? Please reassure me that you don’t collectively view the handset as an ethernet terminal and that you *are* considering cellular connectivity into your application infrastructure!

– Brands – more and more big name brands are rightly getting into mobile, but if you’re from one of these brands, is this issue putting you off? What kind of SLAs are you demanding from your mobile partners?

– Analysts – I’d love to hear your predictions for the future, let me know if this is all effectively scaremongering, or should we all be really concerned? Surely it’s not just about putting up with it until 4G arrives in the UK in about a billion years?

– The mobile industry – I’m just as happy to hear from the rest of you too. Many of you have got solutions for this, so what are they, how do they work, how will it affect me as a consumer? Or are you just hyping this up? 😉

Get in touch if you’ve got a view and let’s try to thrash this one out. As always, I’m

Meanwhile, hear’s the Data Capacity Crunch series from last year. Looking through them, most of the points discussed still stand today (you can flick between episodes — there’s 5 in total).

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