Blog Post

Will P2P Soon Be the Scourge of Mobile Networks?

Wired Internet service providers, by and large, view peer-to-peer file-sharing as a voracious, bandwidth-eating monster. With that in mind, they have justified tiered pricing, aggressive traffic shaping and bandwidth caps all in the name of stopping P2P traffic from overrunning the network. Handily, such practices not only help manage P2P traffic, but can also can boost revenue or slow looming competition from Internet video. Now cellular operators, faced with growing traffic on their mobile broadband networks, are paying closer attention to P2P file-sharing done on their pipes.

A survey out today from Allot Communications, a company that provides deep packet inspection gear to the mobile industry, notes that traffic on mobile networks has risen 30 percent between the first and second quarter of this year. The survey is new, so year-over-year data is not available.  Allot’s research also shows that the most voracious users of the cellular data network — those in the top 5 percent — are pretty different from the rest: Those taking up most of the bandwidth are big P2P users. The survey also concludes something that we’ve know for a while:

“What is most noticeable from the data gathered in this report is that subscribers are treating their mobile networks much the same as they treat their fixed networks. This is particularly true for heavy data users who seem to expect the same service from the Internet, irrespective of their access method.”

In part that’s because those heavy users are likely using data cards connected to laptops rather than the more limiting mobile handsets, on which it’s more difficult to surf online and watch video. But mostly it’s because the Internet is the Internet no matter if you access it on a desktop or on your phone. And as the handset guys try to build devices that look more like computers, and the computer guys incorporate cellular connectivity so those devices can be portable like handsets, wired and wireless data consumption patterns will increasingly mirror one another. That includes some subscribers’ love of P2P sharing.

applications breakdown in avg cell vs top 5% cells

Photo by Brocco Lee via Flickr.

13 Responses to “Will P2P Soon Be the Scourge of Mobile Networks?”

  1. i am not at all surprised by the p2p stats. i have a small computer shop that does quite a lot of service(mostly stuff like virus removal and system tuneups) at low prices. i seems like every laptop and desktop that comes through the doors lately is connected to the net via mobile broadband. most of the hard drives on these computers are completely packed with p2p downloads.

    most of my customers use cricket’s prepaid mobiel broadband; they slow things down after the first 5GB each month. but my customers really do not seem to mind waiting many hours or even days for downloads to complete. i also believe that many of these people would not have broadband at all if not for mobile. they do not have landline phones or cable TV and the credit checks and long term nature of a wired contract makes it unfeasible for them. before they subscribe to cricket the only other options was the possiblity of an open wifi router that could jump on.

    with virgin mobile now offering prepaid dongles and t-mobile with flexpay options on their dongles i see things about to really pick up. but i really feel like everyone will be much better served if the operators use any technolgical advances to increase capacity and bandwidth caps instead of peak speeds. we can live with the slower speeds but i do not see how the customer base can grow without increasing the number of possible simultanous users.

  2. Robert

    It is unfair to claim that lower income groups use p2p specifically. The p2p use occurs across all income groups. There is a massive amount of content not available through any other service. It is more accurate to describe a specifically upper middle class middle aged group trying to stay “hip” by solely using “netflix”, “hulu” and services like it. It is very snobbish to think lessor of p2p. If anything attitudes like that are the reason why we need an economic depression. There was a time in history where tv didn’t exist, yet artists/musicians survived. Bittorent already accounts for up to 40% of all internet traffic. Why should you throw money away like that? None of these itunes/netflix/hulu business models are sustainable in the long run as broadband speeds improve and the ipod/itunes fad (like the walkman fad). Once we go into the depression though, whether it is one year from now or ten years (government is blowing up a bubble), people will pay a lot less for what they can get for free, that is for sure.

  3. So, wireless broadband providers hype their services with extravagant claims, and the when subscribers attempt to use those services as if the claims are real, then those subscribers become a “scourge” to the providers? Wow. Nice example of doublethink. I have a suggested headline for a follow-up post: “Should Wireless Broadband Subscribers File a Class-Action Lawsuit for False and Deceptive Advertising?”

    • They have them self covered with footnotes explaining that actual speeds will depend upon a number of factors and/or the two magic words “up to”. Do you really think that their lawyers haven’t been all over it? Only the gullible or naiive really think that they are getting a guaranteed access to bandwidth.

  4. wired broadband replacement is definitely the ‘killer app’ of mobile broadband. from my observations mobile broadband is particularly popular among people in lower income groups. these are the same groups of course that do lots of p2p for the purpose of acquiring free and/or cheap entertainment.