Apple once again is attempting to change multiple markets at one time. With this launch, payment ecosystems, fitness wearables, mobile voice and roaming calls were all offered new solutions that may or may not change the way people interact with their phones. Some of these announcements may also have an impact on mobile and fixed networks worldwide.
The biggest impact of the new Apple launches on networks is the introduction of VoLTE and VoWiFi. VoLTE will have impact on mobile networks due to the change in how voice is carried and how the mobile infrastructure needs to deal with QoS, but this will leverage industry standards and has been planned for some time.
The introduction of VoWiFi however, is significant for consumers as well as having a small impact on fixed networks. I am a subscriber to T-Mobile in the US, and I have used this service (on Android phones) for a number of years, and it can be a game changer for consumers. Mobile coverage issues can be minimized in the home and in the office by the use of WiFi (and the fixed networks that they are attached to) for backhaul. It also will help consumers reduce international roaming charges if you have access to WiFi – as you can use WiFi to connect back to your mobile network and not incur roaming charges when overseas. I have saved thousands of dollars when traveling in both hotels and offices around the world by getting local rates in the US when I have actually been overseas through the use of VoWiFi, and this service is one of the biggest reasons I have been a T-Mobile subscriber for so long. But what impact does this have on the local network? Not a lot, but it adds to the growing number of devices that generate long-lived, background connections. Below is a graph of my mobile device in my home on a week that I was home all week long, and you can see a constant background bandwidth usage (albeit small) with occasional spikes for phone calls (I don’t use my mobile phone for much other than calls at home).
Will this dramatically affect fixed network bandwidth usage? No, but when combined with the increased use of the mobile phone for payments, wearable statistics uploads (and often the social networking activity surrounding them), it will add session and bandwidth load onto the operators network, and could be a long term consumer of the bandwidth caps that are present on many mobile networks around the world today.
But the real question is, did the live streaming failures mean that the event had no impact on networks? Traffic to the Apple website peaked at 50% above normal on both networks we show below, so it did make a big difference. You can also see the traffic fall off to the site during the event as the streaming failed and people sought alternative new sources.
Below is a snapshot from a mobile network in Europe (where the event started at 6pm), and you can see at 6pm traffic began rising to the Apple sites and peaked higher than at the beginning of the event. You can also Much of the high bandwidth traffic occurred after the event when people began going to the Apple site to get more information on the devices that were announced:
We also took a snapshot from a fixed line network in the same time zone, and although the traffic was climbing when the event started, the real spike occurred two hours later when the event ended (same as the mobile network above) when consumers when to the Apple site to get more information.
Since the live stream was considered a bust, this meant that a lot of consumers were following the event on social networks or media sites, and once it was over, mobbed the Apple store. This follows the normal pattern for Apple events, and shows how much impact a live event can have on network traffic. We will watch the launch of IOS 8 to see if it has an even worse impact on the networks, as millions of devices phone home to get the update as quickly as they can.