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There’s no such thing as a free application…

We’ll return to the subject of Ericsson’s market analysis unit in future posts, as we have recently returned from an interesting couple of days at their EMEA Analyst Event but Mr Cerwall’s words struck a chord with us.

His argument was that free smartphone applications generate significantly more data and signaling traffic than paid for or premium versions. We’ve encountered this before – not least in a deployment by one of our customers, GoS Networks, where device level software was used to help combat the noise generated by chatty applications.

Ericsson’s analysis claims that up to 170 x more data can be generated by such applications, largely through continual refreshes to obtain adverts and so on. The user may be quite unaware of this burden, but the operators can pay a heavy price. Again, this resonated with evidence from elsewhere – GoS says their main customer will save up to $40 million in CAPEX over the next three years by deploying their solution.

Ericsson didn’t propose a solution to the issue, though presumably they are seeking to address this, but the data was collected from their network observations so must be grounded in the real world. Again, other sources have confirmed this: free applications may be a boon to the consumer, but they can be a burden to the operator.

The question is how long will it be before the consumer starts to complain too? If application performance suffers, whom will they blame? Our guess is that consumers won’t be shouting at the application vendors, but will sling their barbs in the direction of the operators. In which case, operators should start to consider how to address this issue and avoid the calamities that have befallen other networks where spikes in such signaling and data traffic have led to network outages.

It seems that, just as there is no such thing as a free lunch, it’s certain that this isn’t a problem that can just be ignored.