Will P2P Soon Be the Scourge of Mobile Networks?

Wired Internet service providers, by and large, view peer-to-peer file-sharing as a voracious, bandwidth-eating monster. With that in mind, they have justified tiered pricing, aggressive traffic shaping and bandwidth caps all in the name of stopping P2P traffic from overrunning the network. Handily, such practices not only help manage P2P traffic, but can also can boost revenue or slow looming competition from Internet video. Now cellular operators, faced with growing traffic on their mobile broadband networks, are paying closer attention to P2P file-sharing done on their pipes.

A survey out today from Allot Communications, a company that provides deep packet inspection gear to the mobile industry, notes that traffic on mobile networks has risen 30 percent between the first and second quarter of this year. The survey is new, so year-over-year data is not available.  Allot’s research also shows that the most voracious users of the cellular data network — those in the top 5 percent — are pretty different from the rest: Those taking up most of the bandwidth are big P2P users. The survey also concludes something that we’ve know for a while:

“What is most noticeable from the data gathered in this report is that subscribers are treating their mobile networks much the same as they treat their fixed networks. This is particularly true for heavy data users who seem to expect the same service from the Internet, irrespective of their access method.”

In part that’s because those heavy users are likely using data cards connected to laptops rather than the more limiting mobile handsets, on which it’s more difficult to surf online and watch video. But mostly it’s because the Internet is the Internet no matter if you access it on a desktop or on your phone. And as the handset guys try to build devices that look more like computers, and the computer guys incorporate cellular connectivity so those devices can be portable like handsets, wired and wireless data consumption patterns will increasingly mirror one another. That includes some subscribers’ love of P2P sharing.

applications breakdown in avg cell vs top 5% cells

Photo by Brocco Lee via Flickr.