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Why Latency Is The Bane Of Mobile Data Use

LiveroadrunnerA post by Robert Hamilton on the Google Mobile blog brought an old issue to mind. Robert describes how lowered latency brought people to use Google Mobile search more often.

First of all I have to describe what Latency is for most people. Latency is the time it takes between your device making a request and it getting a response. This is the reason it takes forever for you to download pages on your mobile device. This is because latency on most smartphones is 5–8 times higher than DSL and Cable internet. So even if you have the same speed connection it still feels slow.

Google decided to help with this problem by addressing latency on their end. They did this by minimizing requests and other optimizations. They also promoted their Google search plugin for BlackBerry which is a simple Google search box in an application. Nothing revolutionary compared to Beyond411.

The real approach to this has to be done by our cellphone carriers and manufacturers. For example EVDO was a big step forward bringing latency to around 200–300ms, HSDPA will bring it to about 100ms, & I think EVDO Rev A brought it to around 75–100. The problem is that compared to broadband internet with latency of ~40ms that we are used to. This is the reason I cannot wait for HSDPA to come to BlackBerrys near you.

I think that once carriers and handset manufacturers fix the latency difference between broadband and mobile broadband they will truly see an increase in mobile data usage.

(BTW that is a live Roadrunner pictured above.  I could not resist… Beep-Beep!)

3 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. Part of the equation is also proxy and cache servers. Even reducing wireless latency won’t fix the latency those introduce, which most on fixed wired connections don’t have to deal with. I understand why they are there, and they do help cut the amount of data to the handset, but as handset wireless speeds increase and data plan prices drop, I hope the caches/proxies we have to go through to web surf from Blackberry are also improved!

  2. David,
    That has to be part of the equation. The proxy on the BlackBerry works well for EDGE latency but with EVDO Rev A and such it will start to show its uselessness. I just wish somebody came up with a better web browser for Blackberry

  3. Ah, Ronen, if only there was a BB with Rev A! Maybe the 8330? But it won’t help ME because no way I can have a camera.

    Concur though the BB web browser is terrible. As bad as the PS3’s, which has no excuse for being so poor! An improvement could be had if RIM would let us replace the “default browser” with something like Opera Mobile (or Firefox Mobile!), but I don’t see the carriers OR RIM letting that happen any time soon. Maybe it will take Android and iPhone 2.0 kicking RIM’s butt in the corporate space for RIM to wake up and OPEN UP!

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