Some mobile networks say that smartphone users are sucking down too much data. But as netbooks become more popular, won't a burgeoning problem get that much worse? (Below, the Palm Pre.)
No, says a new study — having millions more netbooks would be much easier on networks than having millions more smartphones, even though 3G-connected computers technically use more data. Because phones are constantly peforming several tasks at once — browser, mapping, email — they generate much more "signaling activity" than a wireless broadband connection used by a laptop, the study says. So even though a smartphone only uses about 1/25th as much data as laptop with 3G, it generates 1/3 as much signaling activity.
For networks worried about scaling, that means two options: either build out more infrastructure to handle the onslaught of smartphones, or push 3G-enabled netbooks and hope to discourage smartphone sales. So which strategy will telecoms choose? That depends on your cynicism. Already some major providers have asked the FCC for more spectrum to help alleviate network overload, but they'll need to do a lot more if Android and iPhone devices stay popular.