Are Networking Companies like Cisco ready for the iPhone 5?

by Jenn Cano on September 27, 2012

iphone5While the iPhone 5 might be all the rage because it sold out in just a few hours, you might be tempted to over look what the real story is all about.   Money, yes of course it’s always about money.  But, perhaps investors have overlooked where the real money is.  Yes, it seems that everyone is racing to be a part of the iphone billion-dollar industry, but where the real money may be hiding is in the networks built by companies like Cisco and F5 Networks that carry all that iphone data!

With over 5 million iphone 5s being sold already the real question becomes can the networks handle all the new iphone data traffic?   “Network investments over the past couple of years have totaled tens of billions of dollars,” says Carl Howe, a vice president at Yankee Group, a Boston-based research firm.  But have the investments been enough?  “Given that there are only 12.7 million LTE users in the United States right now, a sudden rush of millions of iPhone 5s and other devices could create network problems,” says Bill Moore, CEO of Rootmetrics, a company that analyzes carrier data performance.  He went on to say, "the massive shift to LTE on the iPhone5 could lead to slower speeds for current non-iPhone 5 LTE users because of increased network congestion."

There are quite a few impressive features on iPhone 5 that are set to excite users, but could cause the LTE networks to get congested rapidly. As a result operators could be forced into spending more and more to build up infrastructure just to support this device.  Think about it, the iphone 5 now supports 1080p video.  Quite a jump from the 720p it use to support.   The device not only supports 1080p playback, but also recording and potentially uploading 1080p content.  The difference in bit rate between 720p video and 1080p video could be as high as 50%. This will significantly increase the throughput required to support these devices both on the download and the upload front.

While the average smartphone generates only 35 times the amount of traffic as a traditional cell phone, other devices are not so gentle.   Currently at 4 billion, the number of connected devices is quickly nearing the world's population. By 2015, it will hit 16 billion-double the world's population. Imagine the amount of data that will be sent when 16 billion smart devices come online. Clearly, these new mobile devices are putting an immense strain on the wireless network. 

But, all of this is good news for networking companies like F5 Networks, Cisco, Juniper or Brocade.   IT engineers are working hard to expand the wireless network, creating the bandwidth necessary for the future demand. However, they will need help. As engineers figure out ways to make the network bigger, companies like F5 Networks and Cisco are making it run faster.  

The challenge becomes how to get the data traffic from the cell tower and/or Wi-Fi hotspot back to the core of the network.   For this application Cisco designed the Cisco ASR 901 router.  It’s an environmentally hardened very low-power platform optimized for mobile backhaul requirements, including those found in emerging markets.  Service providers can use these routers to minimize operating costs while increasing coverage of their Radio and Ethernet access networks.  Juniper jumped on board with their MobileNext Broadband Gateway.  It’s primary goal is to take the industry to a new level in user plane scalability and performance, one focused on supporting the heavy signaling load generated by smartphones. 

Like Cisco and Juniper, each of the OEMs are scurrying to keep up with the demands placed on the networks by ever improving smartphones and devices.  As the sales of smartphone continue to skyrocket the demands will continue to increase, and it doesn’t look like there’s any slowing down in the near future.  So while many will continue to bet on the hardware and accessories surrounding the get everything right now on demand mobile arena, my bets on the networking companies that support this growing phenomenon. 

To find out more about impact of the growing data that these mobile devices are creating read our recent post, What’s Cisco’s Big Deal with Big Data?

Or you might be interested what role SDN will play on the mobile networks.  Read SDN - Networking Extreme Makeover Has Cisco and Juniper Scurrying to find out more.

Topics: Brocade network, Cisco, F5 Networks, Juniper Network

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