With the introduction of Apple’s new iPad3 several days ago industry analysts have raved about the device’s high resolution 9.7 inch “Retina” display with 3.1 million pixels. The resolution makes it an awesome device to read books, send e-mails, and watch all kinds of video – be it live sports or streaming videos and movies. Coupled with the ability to access high speed cellular networks with the new 4G option, new iPad3 owners are going to be facing severe sticker shock when they get their first bills from AT&T or Verizon. This is because should the new iPad be used in 4G mode (an optional feature) to download or stream videos there is a high likelihood that the monthly data caps the user has established will be quickly consumed, leading to what could be significant monthly overage charges.
Hefty Charges for Video Streaming and Downloads
Some recent reports including a March 22nd article in the Wall Street Journal and a Computerworld article are highlighting the challenges that new iPad owners are facing should they elect to download or stream any type of video over a 4G network connection. According to the articles a streaming video will consume 650 megabytes per hour, and a streaming high definition video will consume 2 gigabytes per hour. With Verizon and AT&T charging $10 per gigabyte over the minimal allowance of 2 or 3 gigabytes per month depending on the carrier, it’s no wonder why new iPad owners may be in for a nasty surprise when they open their monthly bill statements in the coming weeks.
Can Cellular and Wi-Fi Networks Handle Ever Growing Capacity?
Beyond the impact on the consumer, the new iPad3 also poses some real issues for cellular and Wi-Fi networks alike. With an emphasis on video consumption there are real fears that the foundations of cellular and Wi-Fi networks in the US may not be up to the task of supporting the demand caused by the introduction of ever more powerful devices such as the iPad3. Cellular network operators face significant engineering and financial hurdles as they try and cope with bandwidth consumption driven by tablets and smart phones. Regardless of whether the iPad3 user is accessing their 4G provider or a Wi-Fi network, the content they are accessing originates from a remotely located server, from which the content must traverse all types of networks before reaching the end user’s new iPad. I would argue that beyond the possible consumer sticker shock, the owners and managers of wireless and Wi-Fi networks may also face even more significant shocks as they attempt to keep pace with an increasing load on their networks driven by the proliferation of ever more powerful devices such as the iPad3.
Bandwidth Demand to Dramatically Increase
The potential for significantly increased consumer driven bandwidth demand is forcing cellular and Wi-Fi network operators to upgrade the backhaul networks that are used to aggregate all of this consumer demand driven traffic. What used to be an exercise in managing voice and text traffic with very low network bandwidth requirements is now becoming an escalating battle to ensure a positive end user experience while supporting what Cisco estimates will be a 27 times increase in bandwidth demand over the next few years. Managing this consumer demand will be a multi-faceted exercise for operators. Providing ways for consumers to monitor their own usage, different billing approaches such as family data plans, more efficient spectrum usage, and a focus on accelerating the building out of bigger and more scalable backhaul networks. XO Communications can provide support with its extensive portfolio of LMDS licensed spectrum. Ideally suited to support high bandwidth, secure point-to-point or point-to-multi-point microwave connections for a fraction of the cost of building out comparable fiber optic networks. XO can also leverage its nationwide network to provide cost effective wired connections.
For cellular and Wi-Fi network operators this is no time to skimp on your networks just as consumers are looking to use their new iPad3 tablets. XO can assist with ensuring a positive customer experience without anyone having to “break the bank”.