How iOS 4.2.1 Reduces Network Congestion
Apple is addressing iPhone network utilization issues by implementing a new feature in iOS 4.2.1 that reduces traffic generated by idle apps, according to tests run by smartphone behemoth Nokia
. This feature could lead to much improved performance on AT&T's heavily-utilized network, and will also help to extend battery life.
In a blog post today, Nokia Siemens Networks announced the result of tests
at the company's Smart Lab in Espoo, Finland that indicate that iOS 4.2 supports Network Controlled Fast Dormancy (NCFD), which is part of the 3G Partnership Project (3GPP) Release 8 set of specifications. This feature, which Nokia has introduced on its own system, enables the network and smartphone to dynamically determine how frequently the phone switches between idle and active states. This will cut down on signaling traffic loads, which some observers have claimed
was the root of the problems AT&T has faced as more and more iPhones came onto their network.
Previous versions of iOS have used a cruder version of network dormancy to improve battery life - essentially telling the radio to just drop the data connection as soon as any requested data is received. When the iPhone needs more data, it has to set up a new data connection. This reduces demand on the battery but taxes the signaling channels used to set up connections between a device and a cellular base station. Base stations use those signaling channels to set up the data connection, as well as signaling phone calls, SMS messages, voicemails, and other network traffic. So this would explain how areas with a lot of iPhones often experience network slowdowns: it's not just that iPhone users consume more data (though we do
) but also that these signaling channels become overloaded.
The standardized form of NCFD requires support from the carrier to be built into the cellular base stations. AT&T has not specifically announced whether their network supports NCFD, but they have said that they are revamping their infrastructure, in part to deal with increased demand from iPhones and iPads. And in fact, a Wall Street Journal story from earlier this year detailed how Apple "rejiggered
" its software to work better with AT&T's network.