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Tuesday, 14 June 2011 16:38

Angry Birds + Android + ads = network overload


According to Nokia Siemens Networks the hugely popular Angry Birds mobile app running under Android and carrying advertising creates a deluge of signalling traffic on the host mobile network, far more than just the app running on an iPhone.

Tests undertaken by Nokia Siemens Smart Labs, and reported by Light Reading, found that Angry Birds on an Android-based Samsung Galaxy smartphone, with mobile advertising, generated 2,422 signals in one hour of play, a 352 percent increase on the base level as determined by Smart Labs of 688 signals per hour. In contrast, Angry Birds on an iPhone with no advertising generated only eight percent more signalling traffic than the base level.

Light Reading quoted Angry Birds developer saying it was aware of the problem and seeking to ameliorate it. The impact of signalling traffic on mobile data networks, however, is something of a pet subject for Nokia Siemens, which claims to be alone in having a solution.

In a posting on the NSN blog last month Leslie Shannon from the NSN Network Systems marketing team, said: "Nokia Siemens Networks has been addressing this smartphone signalling issue ever since it first appeared in 2009. With Cell_PCH and Network Controlled Fast Dormancy (which we're the only vendor in the industry to offer), we've been able to, for example, reduce the signalling volume at T-Mobile Netherlands by 30 percent overnight by implementing Cell_PCH."

What this means is explained in a NSN Smart Labs white paper "Understanding Smartphone Behaviour in the Network." It reports on another demonstration of the signalling storm that smartphone applications can create.

"We tested a popular online multiplayer poker game and measured the data and mobile network signalling traffic generated by playing the game for 30 minutes on both a laptop and a smartphone, in this case the iPhone version 4.1'¦ The laptop generated 188 signalling messages during the half hour, while the smartphone generated more than 10 times that amount, at a staggering 1996 signals during the half hour. This is 66 signals per minute, or an average of one signal per second.

It explains that the problem is in part due to a feature called fast dormancy, used by smartphone manufacturers to prolong battery life According to NSN, with fast dormancy the handset forces the network to release its data connection the moment it has downloaded a piece of data, then the handset disconnects from the network and returns to the idle state, reducing the drain on its battery.


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NSN says: "This benefit is immediately visible to end users'¦The drawback is that because the handset is now spending the shortest time possible in the active state. If a smartphone wants to connect to the network again to send more data, it must initiate an entirely new connection from the idle state, and this greatly increases signalling traffic, which wastes network resources and can ultimately mean that fewer smartphones are able to connect."

Nokia offers a partial solution to the problem by making use of Cell_PCH, a paging channel specified in the 3GPP standard. According to Nokia Siemens state after making a data connection, the entire round trip from idle to active and back to idle requires 30 signalling messages. But when a handset is maintained not in the idle state, but in the Cell_PCH mode between active connections, it only requires 12 signalling messages for the round trip.

However most smartphones today have fast dormancy enabled, which over-rides Cell_PCH. Nokia has got around this to some extent using network enabled fast dormancy, which means that in multivendor networks smartphones connected to NSN base stations use Cell_PCH to reduce signalling traffic while still reducing the drain on the battery and revert to fast dormancy with increased signalling traffic but increased battery life in other parts of the network.


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