Can you hear me now? Data loads overwhelming networks

Updated on Feb 17, 2011 09:47 PM IST

At the Mobile World Congress, the corporate visionaries of the business agreed that a challenge they all would face was managing the avalanche of demand for mobile data services fueled by the growth in smartphones.

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ByThe New York Times, Barcelona

At the Mobile World Congress, the corporate visionaries of the business agreed that a challenge they all would face was managing the avalanche of demand for mobile data services fueled by the growth in smartphones.

And some of the 50,000 attendees at the event got a firsthand taste of how daunting that challenge might be. Mobile service was at times spotty, and while reception was generally steady, calling volumes tended to be low and some people strained to hear their mobile conversations. Sometimes, calls simply did not go through.

As the popularity of smartphones continues to grow, the challenge, on a global scale, may only get greater. The European network equipment makers Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent expect data traffic on the world's mobile networks to increase 30 times through 2015. Huawei, a Chinese competitor, expects the traffic level to rise 500 times by 2020.

The number of mobile broadband subscribers, which was 600 million at the end of 2010, is expected to almost double this year to a billion and climb to five billion in 2016. Mobile network capacity will need to increase 20 to 25 times to handle that growing load, said Hans Vestberg, chief executive, Ericsson.

“In the future, we are going to live in a truly networked society,” said Vestberg. Ericsson announced an alliance with Akamai, a company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, whose software and global network of 83,000 computer servers provides a deluxe, accelerated path through the Internet clutter for the Web traffic of the world’s largest businesses, to integrate the company's software into Ericsson network equipment.

Once the gear is installed in phone networks, the general public should experience a faster mobile Web, said David Kenny, president, Akamai.

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