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Prescription for Wireless Congestion

May 19 2011


If you have sinus congestion, there's an entire aisle of the drugstore dedicated to bringing you relief. But what if the congestion is in your wireless connection? Given the exponential growth of Smartphones and tablets, wireless carriers are experiencing significant congestion in their cellular networks. The very companies that have been encouraging the use of Smartphones are staggering under the heavy use. Unfortunately for wireless carriers and Smartphone/tablet users, the fix for wireless congestion isn't as easy as treating sinus congestion.

The Problem

People with Smartphones aren't just making calls; they're browsing the Web, watching video and listening to audio. These data-intensive activities are placing remarkable strain on the network. It is particularly problematic in highly-populated areas (such as San Francisco or Los Angles) or at large gatherings (like a pro football game). The growing number of tablets streaming video and audio certainly isn't helping either. Netflix just launched their Android app, making it possible to streamline full length films to your phone.

The "Visual Networking Index" from Cisco Systems helps us understand this problem. The report predicts that mobile data traffic will increase 26-fold between 2010 and 2015. Also by 2015, Cisco predicts that more than 5.6 billion personal devices will be connected to mobile networks. An article on Mashablearticle on Mashable offers similar predictions and the chart below.

em art graph

Why it Matters for REALTORS®

Many REALTORS® rely on Smartphones and tablets to help their business run smoothly. Think of the many ways you use your iPhone or BlackBerry on a daily basis: responding to email, marketing with social media, integrated calendar appointments, staying up-to-date with news and video tutorials. Tablets are only going to become more important as the industry moves towards paperless transactions. Exciting new technology like Real Estate Dashboard® from GoPaperless Solutions make going paperless possible, but a wireless device like a tablet PC is essential.

That's how you use your wireless device. Think about your clients' use. It's important that, when they're on their Smartphone or iPad, they can access your website, watch your videos, visit your Facebook page, get directions to your open house and shoot you an email.

The Solution

There isn't a simple fix for this problem. Whatever the solution, it's going to need to come from the wireless carriers themselves. For example, AT&T is targeting high-traffic areas like Times Square with a widespread Wi-Fi hotspot. We may start seeing this in more areas. Carriers are also boosting 3G performance in areas of poor signal strength with femtocells. In large spaces like office buildings and malls, picocells are extending cellular coverage. Carriers are also adding distributed antennas and, very rarely, even new cell towers (although, this is admittedly a last resort).

You may see carriers starting to charge users based on how much bandwidth they're using. You're probably already hearing them call for more spectrum. Yep, wireless carriers are insisting that television networks should sell spectrum to them.

So what can the folks on the ground do? We obviously don't have the same options – or the same resources – as wireless carriers. The truth of the matter is this: the best strategy right now just might be to "grin and bear it." Believe me, this is not a defeatist perspective. Until wireless carriers make improvements, there's very little we can do.

I get it – you're a person of action. You'd like at least something to do. There are a few suggestions. Business owners can make the significant expense and expand Wi-Fi access points. Or, if your office has Wi-Fi already in place, you may want to consider products like Kineto's Smart Wi-Fi product, which will enable your Smartphone to switch automatically from 3G to Wi-Fi as soon as you enter the building.

Have you been frustrated by wireless congestion? How did you address the problem?

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