Avoiding The Signaling Storm

There’s a potentially devastating wireless signaling storm brewing, and Calif.-based SEVEN Networks, a provider of mobile solutions aimed at reducing smartphone data traffic on wireless networks, says the problem could amount to 25 trillion signaling events per hour.

The issue of wireless signaling is quickly gaining mainstream attention as the number of smartphones is approaching 1 billion. On Android alone, the company notes, 850,000 new devices get activated daily for a total of 300 million in market, each averaging 35 downloaded apps.

Many of the most popular apps constantly ping the network to check for updates (some as many as 2,400 times per hour), each time establishing a new connection and generating as many as 30 network signaling events if the radio is idle and needs to be turned on. “This ‘app chattiness’ not only contributes to the signaling storm but also drains the device battery, and ultimately results in a degraded user experience,” SEVEN adds.

Numerous carriers around the world already have experienced the impact of always-on smart devices, their chatty applications and the resulting signaling storm that has caused network congestion or even outages, including the network ‘brown-out’ in Japan in January 2012, during which 2.5 million subscribers were unable to make voice calls.

Data came from lab tests conducted by SEVEN for its “Open Channel” traffic-optimization solution, designed to help reduce unnecessary signaling by only connecting devices to the network if updates are available. “The solution has been shown to reduce the amount of smartphone-generated signaling by as much as 40 percent and bandwidth by as much as 70 percent,” it explains.

“Wireless signaling is a tricky topic because often times it’s hidden, happening in the background without any user knowledge, but it is growing bigger by the minute as more users download more connected applications,” comments Isabelle Dumont, head of marketing. 

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