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Mobile Data Offloaded Will Grow 100-fold by 2015

Mobile data offloading is forecast to triple in the next five years. According to a new study from ABI Research, about 16% of mobile data is diverted from mobile networks today, and that is expected to increase to 48% by 2015. But data traffic itself will have grown by a factor of 30, meaning that offloaded data will expand 100-fold.

The serious, well-publicized traffic overloads (including content data and radio signaling) that are starting to choke many mobile networks will only worsen as smartphones and other mobile devices proliferate, and operators must extend capacity. Brute force network expansion, requiring a doubling of capacity, isn’t an option.

Instead, several approaches and technologies will play specific roles in relieving network congestion. These include Wi-Fi, femtocells, mobile CDNs (content delivery networks) media optimization, and more. [ABIResearch]

As ABI Research practice director Aditya Kaul explains, “Each of these offload and optimization technologies is aimed at solving a particular problem and they will all coexist. Wi-Fi is effective in covering limited areas containing many users, such as transport stations and sports venues. A femtocell, in contrast, is a good solution for targeting small numbers of heavy data users. Mobile CDNs attack the problem of frequently-used content, for example a video that has ‘gone viral’, by caching the file locally rather than loading it onto the network for each download request.”

One of the most effective tools is media optimization – effectively improved compression – which is already being used widely. Media optimization will grow the fastest and deliver the greatest traffic reduction of all these methods.

Data offloading saves money as well as relieving network traffic. “Moving data costs a surprising amount,” says Kaul. “Wi-Fi and femtocells in particular do that at a tiny fraction of the per-Gigabyte cost of a 3G network. The ABI Research report precisely quantifies these savings.”

Most of these solutions are being offered to operators by a number of suppliers. Prominent among them: Belair Networks for carrier Wi-Fi; Ubiquisys for femtocells; Akamai for CDN; Stoke, Inc. for core offloading; and for media optimization, Bytemobile and Openwave.

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