Mobile data traffic is doubling every nine months, according to Cisco Systems. By 2013, mobile traffic will hit 2 exabytes--2 million terabytes--per month.
For some vendors, the growth rate is even higher. AT&T says its network load has been growing by 4.5x per year for the last two years, in large part (I assume) because of iPhone sales. You may have read about AT&T's pledge to spend over $12 billion this year to expand its wireless and broadband networks, including new 3G spectrum with better coverage and trials of 4G service.
At the Linley Group's Tech Processor Conference this week in San Jose, Calif., we learned what effect this growth is having on equipment makers, especially the companies making the microprocessors that go into network gear.
According to that same Cisco study, the problem goes well beyond iPhones. A 3G-equipped laptop "can generate as much traffic as 450 basic-feature phones" and 15 times the traffic of an iPhone or BlackBerry.
Networks have also gotten smarter, so network processors have much more work to do. Instead of just hundreds or thousands of clock cycles of work per packet on the network, new functions like firewalls, intrusion detection, and antivirus scanning to keep smartphones and laptops safe can require 100,000 cycles of processing on each packet.
Factoring in the growth in the network itself, Michael Coward of Continuous Computing, a company that sells equipment, software, and services to the telecom market, said that network operators need to achieve a 1,200x boost in processing performance between the systems deployed in 2008 and those that will be needed in 2013.… Read more