Pre-orders of the iPad 3 have sold out before a single tablet has been shipped. Apple also has reported it expects to sell as many as 9 million iPads by the end of the first quarter. The uptake of this device, which is available with 4G (Long Term Evolution or LTE) capability, has huge implications for the fledgling LTE operators in North America.

The iPad supports HD video, over the top (OTT0 services and a wide variety of consumer and business applications, all of which will contribute to the data traffic currently running across mobile networks. Operators can deal with managing the data traffic, but they do need to mitigate the impact that this traffic will have on network signaling.?

According to Doug Suriano, CTO at Tekelec, the iPad 3 is the first iconic LTE device that will be widely available. He believes that, by virtue of its popularity, features and applications, it will escalate the volume of network signaling on LTE networks to a level much higher than operators originally had anticipated.

As sales of the device increase, usage will be spread over a greater geographic area outside of LTE coverage spots, requiring handover to 3G and other standards. Despite this, Suriano feels the iPad is just one of many challenges that the operators face as they build out their LTE networks. ?

Operators are addressing concerns about data capacity by migrating to LTE, offloading traffic to Wi-Fi and deploying small cells. However, the impact of network signaling has gone largely unreported. The transition to 3G, LTE and IMS has led to an explosion in signaling traffic generated by billions of connected devices and apps that need frequent refreshing. Mobile operators are able to manage this transition and to capitalize on this opportunity by implementing signaling architectures based on the Diameter protocol. The most important components of the new Diameter network are Diameter routing, policy and subscriber data management. ?

“The rapid growth in subscribers, devices and applications is causing a signaling storm and in some instances, signaling traffic is exceeding data traffic,” Suriano explains. “This sharp increase is placing a burden on network elements, which has led to congestion and network failures, all of which have a major impact on the experience of the end-user. With the migration to LTE- and IMS-based networks, the need to manage the growth in Diameter signaling, and data session traffic, has become critical to ease network congestion in real time.”

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