Themobile industryis constantly evolving and growing at an astronomical pace.  For example, just a little over five years ago (June 29, 2007 to be exact), Apple sold the first iPhone ever. Today, Apple has shipped about 250 million iPhones worldwide, according to Strategy Analytics.

And this doesn’t account for the booming tablet industry or all the phones operating on Google’s Android platform. While this exceptional pace of growth is exciting, it also presents a whole new set of challenges. To keep up with demand, service providers will need to make investments to improve network speed, intelligence and reliability.

As evident by the statistics on the iPhone, the growth of connected devices will continue to be a major trend going into 2013. From phones, tablets, laptops and devices such as smart meters, Ericsson predicts that more than 50 billion devices will be connected to the web by 2020. Over the next year we will see even more communications, commerce, entertainment and service industries dependent on wireless services, making network reliability even more important.

Besides the sheer volume of devices in the market, the data consumption on these devices is also surging and will continue to do so in 2013. In the last year, per-user data consumption amongst U.S. smartphone users jumped 80 percent. Recently, Cisco projected a 78 percent compounded annual global mobile data growth over the next five years. AT&T is also seeing its mobile data traffic grow 100 percent.  Over the next year we will see even more communications, commerce, entertainment and service industries dependent on wireless services, making network reliability even more important.

Role of P2P and Streaming Video

The two biggest drivers of this data surge are video streaming and peer-to-peer (P2P) application usage. By 2015, video is likely to account for nearly 60 percent of all data traffic. As more and more consumers are using smartphones and tablets to download videos from sites such as YouTube, Hulu and Vimeo, the impact of video on the mobile industry will only continue to grow in the next year. 

Likewise, P2P technology, a network where users are sharing content such as audio, video and data back and forth without the need for a central server, can use up all the capacity from one LTE cell site by one single user. For example, Skype, one of the most widely used internet phone applications, is using P2P technology. Not only do video streaming and P2P applications consume huge chunks of bandwidth on the network, they also raise the need for error free transmission and greater speed.

Classes of Service

Because of this data consumption, wireless carriers need to reevaluate their pricing models. In recent months, it has been reported that both AT&T and Verizon are starting to do just that.  As people continue to put an overwhelming strain on the network, carriers need to determine how they are going to charge users for the amount of bandwidth they use. Business customers and consumers who are increasingly reliant on wireless devices may be willing to pay a premium for guaranteed service that ensures videos stream clearly and data can be easily accessed. Because of this, carriers have the opportunity to offer classes of service based on performance, but they will need a means to ensure that the service is delivered and meets customer expectations if they are to be able to charge for it.

Need for Speed

Besides bandwidth demand, there is also a demand for speed. In many markets throughout Asia, Europe, and North America, huge investments are being made to upgrade networks to 4G/LTE. The Global Mobile Suppliers Association forecasts there will be 119 commercial LTE networks in more than 50 countries by the end of 2012. Investment this year in LTE infrastructure worldwide is expected to exceed $8 billion. However, LTE is still in the early lifecycle stages with only 6 million people using LTE out of the 6 billion who use mobile devices. Therefore, LTE will grow rapidly in 2013, and is expected to become a major piece of the mobile ecosystem in the years ahead.

Network Visibility

As we look at how the number of connected devices, data consumption and need for speed are affecting wireless networks, it becomes clear that networks need visibility to better manage, monitor and evaluate how their networks are performing. Improving visibility into the network helps expedite troubleshooting and enhance service to meet customer demands and needs. Moving into next year, it will become critical for wireless providers to step into a new era of innovation driven by network visibility. This is the next logical step in meeting the surge of growth in the mobile industry head on and with an effective solution.