Next-gen mobile apps require new bandwidth options

Chetan Sharma of Chetan Sharma Consulting and GigaOM Pro Analyst, Wim Sweldens of Alcatel-Lucent, and Iyad Tarazi of Sprint at Mobilize 2011.

Chetan Sharma of Chetan Sharma Consulting and GigaOM Pro Analyst, Wim Sweldens of Alcatel-Lucent, and Iyad Tarazi of Sprint at Mobilize 2011.In order for 4G mobile apps to really take off, service providers will have to start bundling the requisite bandwidth with the apps to promote wide-spread adoption.

“You see developers putting enormous effort into ease of use for their [mobile] apps, assuming free bandwidth … but then those apps launch 100 connections,” said Wim Sweldens, president of Alcatel-Lucent’s Wireless division at Mobilize 2011 today. That load saps available bandwidth for the user pretty darn fast, especially since there are precious few unlimited data plans left for consumers.

Simple fact: Cost-conscious consumers won’t stick with glitzy new apps if it costs an arm and a leg to access them, Sweldens said. “We need to come up with a different way of pricing some bits may be more valuable and other bits you may want to wait for. We need that kind of yield management [for bandwidth].”

If consumers get whacked by huge cell bills, “they get confused, and confused customers aren’t good for anyone,” Sweldens said. And when it comes to smartphones, apps are where it’s at. 

Iyad Tarazi, VP of network development and engineering for Sprint, agreed that bandwidth availability is critical. Sprint launched unlimited data plans four years ago in order to offer customers flexibility at a reasonable price, he said. That was not altruistic, however. “We wanted fast 4G adoption to drive the use of video, interactive gaming,” Tarazi said.

Even as bandwidth costs reemerge as a concern for customers, the tools and middleware available to developers has made it much easier for them to build highly customized apps for a wide array of users, Tarazi said.

And the infrastructure is getting smarter as well. “There will be middleware to help manage apps that are not disciplined,” and more sophisticated clouds will interoperate with the wireless network to optimize service delivery.  The technology will figure out how to download a frame first, before all the content to make it a faster user experience, Tarazi said.

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