My colleague Stacey Higginbotham reported at Gigaom today that P2P is putting an increasing strain on mobile data networks. A new report from DPI gear maker Allot Networks shows that P2P already amounts for 21 percent of mobile data traffic on average, and even 41 percent amongst heavy users. From the article:

"(W)ired and wireless data consumption patterns will increasingly mirror one another. That includes some subscribers’ love of P2P sharing."

Does that mean mobile networks are doomed? Well, maybe not. Turns out that P2P may already cause a lot of traffic, but it doesn't actually eat up that many resources. Here's what Business Week had to say about this yesterday:

"E-mail puts a much heavier load on 3G networks than Web surfing or peer-to-peer applications, according to Alcatel-Lucent (ALU)'s research wing, Bell Laboratories."

So, what is it? Is P2P killing mobile networks, or is it plain old e-mail? It really depends on what you look at. The volume of data transferred is one indicator, but the way applications utilize the network is another.

I've heard this argument from ISPs before. They don't like too many P2P users completely maxing out their bandwidth 24/7, but the P2P traffic itself is something they can live with. It's a very predictable, constant flow of traffic that doesn't show many spikes.

Video and web usage on the other hand can be very erratic, capable showing lots of unpredictable spikes during the day and mostly dying down at night. Things like these are even more important if you're dealing with networks that have much less excess capacity and more points of failure, like cell phone towers. From the Business Week article:

"Mobile email consumes around 69% of a wireless data network's signalling resources, despite only accounting for around 4% of the volume of data carried by the network."

Maybe mobile network operators should start throtteling e-mail ...

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