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Cellphones Communications Networking Software Wireless Networking

Can Apps Really Damage a Cellular Network? 309

schnell writes "In FCC filings earlier this year, T-Mobile described how the behavior of one Android IM app nearly brought their cellular data network to a breakdown in one city. Even more interesting, the US carrier describes how just the 300,000 unlocked iPhones on their network caused massive spikes in data usage. T-Mobile is using these anecdotes as evidence that mobile carriers should be able to retain control over the applications and devices on their network to ensure quality of service for all users. Do they have a point?"
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Can Apps Really Damage a Cellular Network?

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  • by snowgirl ( 978879 ) on Friday October 15, 2010 @06:05PM (#33913512) Journal

    Why then is T-Mobile having no problems in Germany, where they have exclusivity with the iPhone, but yet, apparently they're having problems here, with just a small number of iPhones?

    Sounds hokey to me...

  • Re:All it proves.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by choongiri ( 840652 ) on Friday October 15, 2010 @06:22PM (#33913688) Homepage Journal

    its costs a lot of capitol to build a network

    You're right in more ways than one.

    It costs a lot of (financial) capital to build a network, but a lot of capitol (hill lobbying) to maintain your garbage monopoly by whining that the consequences of your lack of investment is the users' fault. Which is exactly what the telcos are now trying to do.

  • Better idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mark72005 ( 1233572 ) on Friday October 15, 2010 @06:24PM (#33913704)
    Why not just give people freedom, and lock out the offending devices if a problem occurs?
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday October 15, 2010 @06:33PM (#33913776) Homepage

    Well not exactly. Technically, they lease the network from "we the people." You know the stuff they pay the FCC for? Yeah... that comes from us... sorta. It's like all public utilities though. They pay the government to have a protected "right of way" to install and operate their equipment. And as always PART of their agreement is not to abuse the public they are serving.

  • by Nethemas the Great ( 909900 ) on Friday October 15, 2010 @06:41PM (#33913828)
    As much as I'd love for that to be true it really isn't. There are several factors involved as to why this doesn't work:
    • No one wants a carrier that has limited coverage
      • infrastructure is expensive
      • purchasing spectrum is cost prohibitive to start ups
      • no one will rent their infrastructure to a carrier that is a threat to their business
    • People don't know any better
    • Vendor lock in by contracts
    • etc.
  • Re:what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PhotoJim ( 813785 ) <jim@p h o t o j i> on Friday October 15, 2010 @06:57PM (#33913922) Homepage

    Basic 3G is UMTS, 384kbps. EDGE can attain those speeds but typically, 200kbps is extremely good bandwidth and 100kbps is very good. 50kbps is not atypical. I've never gotten faster than 150kbps on EDGE.

    On the other hand, I find that it is not at all difficult to get a full 384kps out of a UMTS device.

    EDGE and GPRS seem much more affected by voice and messaging traffic than UMTS and HSPA are.

  • Japan envy. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by reiisi ( 1211052 ) on Friday October 15, 2010 @07:01PM (#33913962) Homepage

    Both on the part of the people and of the companies.

    Seriously, people in Japan just work around the government's attempts at restrictions. That's why they don't really understand the fundamental issues of freedom, such as self-determination. It looks to your novce manager like the ideal place to manage, until you try to get people to do something new or unusual. (Propaganda does work, but it also takes a while.)

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Friday October 15, 2010 @08:18PM (#33914454)

    > Setting up and tearing down radio resource connections all the time has a burden on the network.

    Most of the aggressive instant teardowns are due to the criminally-inadequate batteries shipped with the iPhone and every gigahertz+ Android phone that will leave you "powerless" in 4-6 hours without aggressive battery management. If carriers like T-Mobile want to reduce the teardown rate, they could start by telling companies like HTC and Samsung to ship the damn phones with adequately-sized batteries in the first place. It really says something when you go to web forums for high-end HTC, Samsung, and Motorola Android phones, and more or less HALF the postings are directly or indirectly related to battery life. Aftermarket extended batteries are a piss poor option, because the form factor of the phone usually ends of constraining them into an obnoxious tumor-like lump instead of an extra millimeter of overall girth.

    Five years ago, the Samsung SPH-I500 was almost regarded as "fatally flawed" because its battery *barely* could make it through 16-20 hours without a charge. Then Steve Jobs told the world it was normal and OK for phones to die after being away from a charger for 4 hours because it made the phone look thin and sexy, and the entire industry abandoned its common sense and blindly followed with undersized batteries. Fuck, it pisses me off. Imagine how much fun someone like Motorola could have if they'd released the DroidX with a beefy -- yet sculpted and well-distributed -- 3000+mAH battery that enabled it to run full-bore for 24 hours on a single charge with no real power management to speak of. They could have *shredded* the Evo/DesireHD and Galaxy S for dying by mid-afternoon, comparing them to anorexic models competing in the Ironman and dropping dead halfway through, and HTC & Samsung wouldn't have any real recourse besides sending everyone a free battery as an apology, and making sure their NEXT generation of phones had nice, beefy batteries too.

    Hell, they could even resurrect Sir Mix-a-Lot's career for the commercials.

    "When it comes to battlife, SteveJobs got nothin' to do with my selection. Four hours -- maybe six -- not all day? Not MY phone!" (sound of cracking whip amidst dancing troupe of big-backed 'Droids)

  • Re:what? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sortius_nod ( 1080919 ) on Friday October 15, 2010 @08:24PM (#33914486) Homepage

    That's a problem with infrastructure investment, not with the jailbroken iPhones. Your argument is flawed because you are explaining away a lack of infrastructure.

    Sending a server into a tailspin has nothing to do with this. The standards are set by 3GPP, if the network can't deliver service while adhering to the standard it's not the customers' problem, it's the providers' problem.

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) * on Saturday October 16, 2010 @02:56AM (#33915792)

    If you really want to know the solution for IM apps screwing with cell towers, it isn't taking away IM apps. It's making SMS cheaper.

    SMS is fucking free so far as the carriers costs are concerned. But they can't see their way to giving up that revenue stream (and it's substantial, especially if you go over your limit, and how many of us know teenagers who do that regularly.)

  • History (Score:5, Interesting)

    by symbolset ( 646467 ) * on Saturday October 16, 2010 @03:36AM (#33915924) Journal

    When I was a kid not only were there no cellular phones - you weren't even allowed to own your own wired phone in the US. You had to lease it from AT&T [] for a monthly fee because Alexander Graham Bell founded that company (sort of - read the prior link for the historic details), and he invented the telephone (this much is not in doubt). It's only recently that we're allowed in the US to bring our own phones to the wireless network, and they've pretty much handled that by making sure that each phone generally works with only one wireless network. We're pretty accustomed to being molested by our communications providers. Only a few years ago it was common to charge more than a dollar a minute to talk to your neighbor across the street if the street was one of the imaginary lines that separated Regional Bell Operating Companies. It was cheaper to call across the country, or even a foreign country, than to organize a meeting of the Parent-Teachers Association (PTA). Back then I bought Karma by subscribing to a cheap long-distance company and performing the contemporary version of bittorrent by serving as a "filebone hub []" on an antique mail and data network called "FidoNet []". It was like the Internet except in batch mode and we had parties called Get Togethers (GTs). Back then I was fiending for Internet because I had had it in the military, but couldn't get it because it wasn't available to the general public - only businesses, schools, folks who could afford CompuServ and so on. Get Togethers were a lot of fun because we got drunk, and sometimes naked, in person rather than over video chat. CUCME (see you, see me - an early video chat program) wasn't invented yet - it was the late '80's, or very early '90s. We still stayed anonymous in person mostly - everybody had a "handle" - which nym is taken from a completely irrelevant radio network (Citizen's Band) which will occur later. But I digress.

    Anyway, there was this Georgia peanut farmer, whose name was Thomas Carter (not the former US President Jimmy Carter, as some (formerly including me) believe), who wanted to make phone calls from his tractor in the field. He was electronics savvy, so he rigged up a Citizen's Band radio that would allow him to dial the phone and talk on it, and this was the Carterfone [] and he sold copies of it, as any right-minded entrepeneur would. And of course AT&T shut him down because they didn't own this thing and so could prevent him from using it on their network. He sued, and it was many years later that his lawsuit resulted in the breakup of the US phone monopoly. That led to AT&T becoming at first just the vestigal long-distance portion of the former phone company, and later just a brand.

    Non-Sequitur: The breakup also led to Unix - which was invented by Bell Labs (a division of AT&T at one point which invented not only Unix and C, but a great many other useful things), being divided into parts. The Unix name was sold to The Open Group, which certifies Unix to this day. The Unix source code and OS was sold first to Novell, which sold it to a quite respectable Linux .com called the Santa Cruz Operation, which burned through their .com millions and sold it off to a spinoff of Novell called the Canopy Group. Actually, they sold it to a spinoff of the spinoff. This story goes on for a long time, and is slowly grinding to an end documented here []. Unix was the coolest thing that AT&T ever did, and I wanted to work that in even though the code is now owned by a gang of bastards who are determined to ruin every last bit of its utility. But I digress again. Forgive me, it's late.

    AT&T's motto was: "We don't have to care. We're the PHONE COMPANY." The company that owns the AT&T brand now has nothing to

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