Peer-to-peer (P2P) networks are the bane of network providers because they carry a disproportionate amount viruses and other nasty code and tend to use bandwidth with reckless abandon.
To date, the challenges of P2P have mostly been limited to the wired network. That no longer is the case, however, as more mobile networks are squeezed by P2P overlays.
This unfortunate evolutionary step was pointed out by Allot Communications, a company that makes products that peer into packets to see what they are made of. GigaOm reports that the firm says that the top 5 percent of cellular data users are heavily into P2P. The commentary in the piece suggests that current trend toward pervasive mobility means that is no reason to think that P2P won't be as big an issue tomorrow in the wireless world as it is in the wired world today.
Ars Technica also reported on the Allot study. Its story includes a nice graphic detailing the how the 30 percent mobile data growth was divided among three types of hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) formats (streaming, downloads and browsing), P2P and miscellaneous formats. The writer says that the Allot numbers show that P2P is often a main contributor to cell site congestion issues.
It's only fair to point out that not everybody thinks that P2P is the main problem. Mobile Europe reports that Alcatel-Lucent researcher Michael Schabel recently delivered a presentation in which he laid much of the blame at mundane data services such as e-mail. The idea is that P2P and similar services are predictable and, though they consume a tremendous volume of bandwidth, don't use much signaling capability. Mobile e-mail and similar applications, on the other hand, are relatively low on data but heavy on signaling. In other words, the overhead necessary to send messages in a staccato manner is far more of a problem than the overall size of what is being sent.
It's well established that the emphasis on expanding mobile networks during the past few years has brought them to equality, or near equality, with their wired cousins. These networks are lucrative, vital and the data they carrier is increasingly valuable. Success has a price, however. In this case, that price is that the problems that impact the wired network are bound to move to the wireless realm. Indeed, the Allot study shows that P2P -- a distribution architecture responsible for still unresolved security and political headaches on the wired side -- is in the process of making the jump.