Traffic shaping comes to mobile networks

T-Mobile G1
The amount of data being transferred by mobile devices is 'phenomenal'

The mobile internet has arrived, and instead of just reading email on our phones, we're streaming music and video, or getting online with a netbook and downloading torrents the way we would on a DSL connection.

That's great for users, but not such good news for the mobile networks, which now are looking to data optimisation techniques to manage and prioritise traffic.

One such data optimisation firm is Bytemobile, which works with T-Mobile in the UK (and over a hundred other networks, including Orange and Vodafone in some countries) to speed up their networks.

"The amount of data is phenomenal," Graham Carey, Bytemobile's MD, tells TechRadar, "and the amount of audio and multimedia data is rising. [On laptops] over 40% of the traffic is video and 50 to 60% is audio, video and photos." And mobile internet connections are commonplace - in Austria there are now more mobile internet users than mobile voice subscribers.

The iPhone and the G1 bring the same traffic patterns to smartphone users, says Carey. "It's becoming much easier for users to go to the internet and, when they do, the sorts of services they are looking at are the multimedia services. And what we're seeing is the operators are planning for that type of growth. They're very interested in video optimisation, multimedia optimisation where you can deliver a quality service but reduce the amount of traffic being delivered."

Speeding up the mobile internet

"We sit in the operator network," says Carey, "and we see all the data traffic passing through; all the http traffic." Caching popular sites on the operator's own network can speed things up by up to five times and dynamic bandwidth shaping uses quality of service policies to give users a much better experience with streaming video.

Rather than just giving the video a higher priority than other traffic, Bytemobile optimises the video stream itself. The right connection speed is more important than the fastest connection speed, says Carey; if you're downloading faster than your phone or PC can handle the video, it will just throw away the packets it's not ready for. "And on a mobile, some users will stop playing the video before they've watched everything they've downloaded."

By knowing what device you're using and what bandwidth you can receive at any given time, Bytemobile can optimise the video so it downloads at the maximum quality for the bandwidth you have. "We can save 30% on the traffic being downloaded; if video is 40 to 50% of the overall traffic that's going to have a big impact on the investment the operators need to make in network traffic. They can design for a lower level of peak throughput or they can take on 20, 30, 40% more users."


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.