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Hot Topics In The Mobile Computing Industry

Bandwidth Optimization in Wireless Networks 

Slow data rate of 2G wireless networks (9.6 Kbps on GSM, 14.4 Kbps with PCS and 19.2 Kbps with CDPD) is one of the most important factors that is mentioned often by enterprises and users as an impediment in the adoption of wireless Internet applications. 3G networks which were expected to increase the speed and capacity of these networks are going to take a while to get installed and provide nationwide coverage. Even interim solutions i.e. 2.5G GPRS, CDMA 2000 or Edge networks will take one to three years for nation-wide coverage.  It is one thing to have coverage in a few metropolitan areas and it is entirely another thing to have adequate coverage for your wireless projects where your sales and service people are, especially for enterprises with regional and national reach.

MobileInfo firmly believes that even when these new breed of networks get installed and become operational, there will be a shortage of bandwidth and capacity for the number of users and type of applications that are expected to utilize wireless networks if the speed is acceptable and price is right.

Content-Agnostic Optimization
Several small wireless-network-savvy vendors have started figuring out ways of reducing the amount of network traffic and utilizing the bandwidth more efficiently. These vendors are now offering server-based bandwidth optimization solutions to wireless carriers and large enterprises.  The objective is to optimize the bandwidth utilization so that you can send higher amount of data traffic (capacity) on the same channel - thus creating virtual bandwidth.  This also gives an illusion of faster speed though actual airlink speed remains the same. The vendors are quoting performance improvements of up to 6X.  Our own assessment is that on an average, you should expect sustained improvement of 2X.  The type of techniques employed are caching, intelligent compression, protocol optimization, spoofing, window size management, etc.  We would like to mention the following vendors in this context:

Content-Aware Optimization Software
Some companies have developed software that optimizes wireless network traffic. One such company is WISP Inc.  Their Zadiel Proxy server optimizes in-bound and outbound traffic 

Full Web Browsing Without Network Optimization Solutions
A small number of vendors are attempting to offer full web browsing on handheld devices in such a manner that some of the browsing is off-loaded to a server. This approach may solve the user experience problem inherent with web-clipping, WML/WAP, cHTML or even i-Mode but does not address the network bandwidth problem. Following efforts, in early stages of development (in June 2001) are worth watching because we expect merging of the two approaches:  

  • Zframe Server for Palm Applications - In June, 2001, Zframe, an wireless application software company out of Belmont, Ma, USA announced an interesting full web page implementation but s small section of the page at a time. Zframe does perform some optimization but more important part of the implementation is to render a specific part of the page to the handheld device. Go to www.zframe.com for more info.

  • BitStream's Thunderhawk Technology - In May 2001, Bitstream Inc. started previewing a new technology, code-named "ThunderHawk", which brings full-featured Web browsing to wireless devices. Unlike mobile micro browsers for wireless devices, Bitstream ThunderHawk gives users complete Internet access to real Web pages while maintaining full text legibility. Bitstream has filed 12 preliminary patent applications for this technology. Go here for more.

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