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Virgin Media: Networks facing ‘explosion of demand’ for mobile data

Figures from a survey carried out by Virgin Media Business point to an ‘explosion of demand’ on the horizon.

A survey of high street shops shows that customers have become so used to checking out videos on YouTube etc that less than one in ten (8 per cent) even bother asking shop assistants if a phone comes with a video playing app.

Phones 4U, Carphone Warehouse, UK network shops and Virgin Media’s own shops were among the stores surveyed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 84 per cent of staff are expecting the arrival of 4G to drive demand for data through the roof. That leaves a cautiously pessimistic 16 per cent.

Virgin Media: Networks facing ‘explosion of demand’ for mobile data

George Wareing, head of mobile and broadcast at Virgin Media Business said in a statement: “There’s a big job on for mobile network operators. Simply put, mobile data usage is like a bottomless pit, it’s expanding all the time. We’re all looking forward to the benefits of 4G, but it raises some tough questions for operators.

“There is a delicate balance between customer demand, customer experience and costs. To avoid penalising people for watching their favourite shows or music videos on the move, operators are looking at fibre-based backhaul for cell sites. This can help to ease the strain and provide a permanent fix.”

Virgin Media Business fibre backhaul pitched at UK networks

Expecting a boom in demand for mobile data is almost like saying it’s going to be cold in December. But Virgin Media’s fibre could prove handy for any networks relying on cellular backhaul.

Fibre for backhaul has an advantage over cellular in that it can offer more capacity than cellular connections. However fibre isn’t in place everywhere in the UK and in places like Cornwall, fibre deployment isn’t currently viable for a number for reasons. Cellular backhaul’s main advantage over fibre is that it just requires masts to be installed and no roads dug up.

It’s estimated by Virgin Media Business that by 2015 people will be using thirty times more mobile data than they were in 2009. Last year, a staggering 52 per cent – over half – of all data traffic was mobile video, according to a Cisco Systems report.

Ofcom too is predicting huge growth in data, from 80 to 300 times between 2012 and 2030, warning that Freeview might even be squeezed and reduced to 20 channels.

Using fibre backhaul wouldn’t solve this spectrum squeeze – cellular backhaul is on a separate frequency to the regular cellular/’last mile’ network – but the bigger capacity offered by fibre could prove tempting.