AT&T backs another panicky report on data capacity

A UCSD report with industry backing warns of a wireless datapocalypse unless carriers' demands are met.

Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

Americans are racing to move the business (and play) of our daily lives on to wireless networks so quickly that the networks may not be able to keep up much longer. At least that's what one new industry-backed report threatens warns.

The new report is out today from the Global Information Industry Center at the University of California at San Diego. The paper and its author, UCSD fellow and infrastructure expert Michael Kleeman, lay out some dizzying figures on the growing stresses placed on mobile networks--including those below and in the box to the right.

To keep up with demand, U.S. wireless networks have traditionally doubled their capacity every 30 months, but this trend may not keep up with future demand... the volume of data traffic on U.S. networks is expected to increase by 1,800 percent over the next four years.

The report says the inevitable result of demand outstripping capacity so dramatically will be painful network congestion.

"We must understand and accept the trade-offs we will face for the convenience of accessing limited wireless capacity," report author Kleeman says in a statement. "Alternatively, as citizens we need to dramatically lower our expectations for wireless services in the future."

Yikes. This guy actually expects we Americans to lower our expectations? We have to rewind the technological advances of the past decade and go back to the days when we spent half of our commuting time buffering YouTube videos? Re-embrace the Edge network?

All your spectrum are belong to us. Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

Maybe. Or maybe it's all just a setup for one big "Unless..." section. Yep, here it is at the end... Kleeman's "three core strategies to manage this disconnect between wireless infrastructure and demand."

The report concludes by explaining that the wireless datapocalypse might be avoidable if we do three things that just happen to be on the big telecoms' holiday wish list this (and every) year: more spectrum; active network management (aka more throttling and data caps without the encumbrance of pesky notions like Net neutrality); and the deployment of supporting infrastructure (with the help of more lenient local permitting processes).

Hmm, I wonder if the conclusions reached might have anything to do with this disclosure in the report's acknowledgments?

Disclosure: The Global Information Industry Center (GIIC) supported this research. Past and present sponsors of GIIC include AT&T, Cisco Systems, IBM, Intel Corporation, LSI, Oracle and Seagate Technology.

Those are names with pretty vested interests in spectrum acquisition and network management.

While it's nice to keep in mind just how fast demand for wireless data is growing, this report seems to echo an older study--again, with backing from AT&T--that warned the Internet might collapse under the weight of similar pressures as early as 2010.

What I'd really like to see is a study that tells us how much more spectrum and towers the carriers will need to make the data caps and throttling go away completely. Otherwise, the people might just have to rise up and figure out a way to throw all our spectrum into Boston Harbor.

 

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