Telco Deep Dive: The hidden costs of app use

On May 26, Digital News Asia (DNA) released its first Deep Dive report, which looked at the telecommunications space in Malaysia. Over these next two weeks, we will be publishing the articles from the PDF report on our portal, plus other stories. To download the Telco Deep Dive, click here. In this article, Edwin Yapp writes about an Alcatel-Lucent study that looked the impact apps are having on networks, data plans and battery life.

  • Alcatel-Lucent study looks at impact of apps on networks, data plans and device battery life
  • Insights for not only telcos and consumers, but app developers too – all impact each other
Telco Deep Dive: The hidden costs of app use

THE growth of smartphones has been nothing short of phenomenal, at least since the iconic Apple iPhone hit the shelves back in 2007. Research firm Analysys Mason predicts that there will be 3.9 billion smartphone connections worldwide in 2018, a growth of 136% over the next five years.
But the rise of the smartphone has also taken a toll on telecommunications networks – a side of the equation that consumers hardly think about. This is because the smartphone has essentially changed the way the consumer interacts with the network.
Smartphones are driven predominantly by the use of the applications or apps consumers download in order to make their device useful. This affects the bandwidth requirements and signalling loads of mobile network operators (MNOs).
Incidentally, the use of apps also affects consumers in terms of the data plan they opt for and where battery life is concerned.
A recently released study undertaken by Alcatel-Lucent entitled The Mobile Applications Rankings Report sought to correlate and examine the impact of leading mobile applications on various MNOs’ networks and on consumers’ data plans and device battery life.
The Franco-American vendor says the findings are based on measuring, scoring and ranking data volume and network signalling (software protocols that govern data transmissions) consumption. Together, these two metrics provide the key to understanding the overall impact of apps.
According to the study, data volume drives MNOs’ bandwidth-related capital expenditure (capex), and at the same time, consumers’ data usage fees. Furthermore, network signalling uses spectral, hardware and processing resources in MNOs’ networks and depletes battery life in consumers’ mobile devices.
In addition, the ratio of signalling and data volume gives an indication of each app’s efficiency.
Alcatel-Lucent says the insights revealed by the study are beneficial not only to MNOs and consumers, but to app developers too.
Telco Deep Dive: The hidden costs of app useThe study’s author, Josee Loudiadis (pic), says app developers, mobile operators and end-users have little understanding of how they impact each other.
App developers do not know if their implementation causes excessive strain on network resources or battery life; MNOs often do not know which apps impact their networks; and end-users have little visibility of which apps are consuming their data and battery the most.
Loudiadis, who is also director of network intelligence at Alcatel-Lucent, says MNOs can use these analytics to monitor apps proactively, effectively engage app developers for optimisation, plan for network growth more accurately, and package apps in a sustainable way that end-users will appreciate.
“App developers can use it [the study] to understand how their app’s efficiency stacks up against their competitors, and decide if they should devote design cycles to optimise their app for mobile,” she tells Digital News Asia (DNA).
“Consumers can leverage the apps’ cost and efficiency comparisons to decide which apps they will use.”
Alcatel-Lucent says all measurements made in the study were based on actual app usage by more than 15 million subscribers on live 3G mobile networks in North America, Asia Pacific and the Middle East.
The rankings cover consumer applications that are offered on app stores or already installed on any mobile device. However, the study notes that since the results originate from many networks, they are not representative of a specific network; rather, they represent a composite, more global network.
Below are some excerpts from the report:

  • The five apps with the highest network impact – Google Search, Facebook, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and YouTube – are also the most popular apps, and optimising these apps can create significant benefits. For example, Facebook successfully optimised signalling for Android devices, reducing the overall signalling load in some networks by 5% to 10%.
  • Telco Deep Dive: The hidden costs of app useApps that impact the network due to their high data volume – a group that includes most video apps, along with iTunes, Instagram, Pinterest, Apple Maps and Pandora – are targets for bandwidth optimisation.
  • Low-impact apps – a group that includes weather apps, Google Maps, Dropbox, Zynga games and select social media apps like Nimbuzz or Palringo – could be excellent candidates for flat-rating, zero-rating or other innovative packaging plans.
  • The Watch List includes applications that do not yet have a great impact on networks. However, these applications have a higher per-user delivery cost that could quickly increase their overall impact if they become more popular. They include Tango, Nimbuzz, Palringo, Office 365, Zynga, Netflix, Pandora, Pinterest, Facebook Channel, Kik and Skype.
  • The top battery-draining apps are Nimbuzz, Yahoo Messenger, BlackBerry Messenger, Facebook Messenger, Kik, Viber and Palringo.
  • The apps with the biggest impact on the consumer data plan are YouTube, Netflix, Facebook Video, Pandora and Instagram Video.
  • The lowest-volume cost apps for consumers by category are Yahoo Mail and Gmail; Blogger,, Live Messenger and Viber (social media); and Instagram Video (video).
  • The least ‘chatty,’ or most signalling-efficient, apps by category are Blogger and Instagram (social media); Gmail (mail); Weather Channel (weather); and Yahoo (search engine).

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