Ever since the original iPhone redefined the smartphone and Android became popular, carriers in the United States were caught flat-footed and they have constantly been whining about an undesired network impact caused by data-hungry owners of iPhones and Android devices.
While U.S. carriers are to blame for their years-long reluctance to upgrade their infrastructure and prepare for the inevitable surge in traffic, wireless operators elsewhere have mostly been able to mitigate the issue. Nevertheless, with 700,000 Android devices being activated each day, and the rising popularity of Google’s platform in Japan, it was only a matter of time before Japanese carriers faced similar hurdles as their U.S. peers.
According to a Reuters report citing a local newspaper story by the business daily Nikkei, Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo said a recent network outage is to blame for a heavy surge in traffic caused by some data-centric Android apps that move large chunks of bits through its cellular network. Specifically, the carrier made claims that VoIP apps disrupted the service and is now requesting that Google do something about it:
The leading Japanese mobile phone service provider identified an Android application, which enables free-of-charge voice communication, as a major cause behind a service disruption that occurred on Wednesday, the business daily said. […] DoCoMo intends to request that Google make Android transmit control signals less often, since frequent service disruptions could hurt the popularity of Android phones, the Nikkei reported.
Android apps send control signals over the network every three to five minutes, even when not in use, straining the network 10 times that of a conventional mobile phone. Perhaps in anticipation of those issues, Google added a handy new feature to Android Ice Cream Sandwich that lets a user set system-wide and per-app data limits and warnings (see the screenshot). This way, users are not just notified when they are about to hit their monthly allowances, they also get to better understand which particular app is eating into their data limits.