Increasing Mobile Screen Resolutions Could Hasten Bandwidth Crisis

Carl Weinschenk
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Five Tips for Better Bandwidth Management

Quick tips on keeping a closer eye on your data packets.

Yesterday, IT Business Edge posted an interview I did with Ronny Haraldsvik, Bytemobile's vice president for global marketing.

One of the main points of the interview, which posted in the site's Executive Briefing column, is that even a relatively small incremental increase in the resolution of mobile device screen resolution adds significantly to the amount of data that must be transmitted. Resolution demands are rising, and it promises to be another front in the battle to satisfy subscribers' mobile desires.

Haraldsvik buttressed his argument with figures from Bytemobiles' most recent Mobile Analytics Report:

We see that 480-pixel devices are 28 percent of the devices used, but they generate 42 percent of all the video traffic. The equivalent here, as a reference point, is that 39 percent of all requests are very low-resolution devices of 240 pixels. They only generate 20 percent of the volume. Think of that as you get to 720-pixel devices and, God help us, high-definition 1080. Just a simple increase in requests could have a dramatic increase in capacity consumed.

It's something that should cause some concern. Millions upon millions of smartphones and tablets will be sold going forward. There is no reason to expect that the general trend line won't be for bigger and higher resolution displays in addition to the overall increase in video consumption. A certain percentage will eventually go to high definition, while lower-cost units will stay about where they are today. The general trend - the mean - will be upward.

It is apparent today. For instance, CNET reports that an HD version of the iPad may be coming. Apparently, an interim device - also with a higher-resolution display - may be on the way as well. AppleInsider reports on rumors that Apple could introduce an iPad 2 Plus. The reports are from Craig Berger, an analyst with FBR Capital Markets, and are based on his contacts with Apple's supply chain. Screen resolution is a driver of the potential new model. Berger wrote:

We hear Apple could migrate the iPad's display resolution from a current pixel density of 132 (pixels per inch) to 250-300 ppi for the 'iPad 2 Plus' (note that the iPhone 4's screen is 326 ppi).

Two weeks ago, NewsFactor reported that Toshiba UK will begin selling the Qosmio F750, a laptop that enables 2D and 3D viewing without glasses, in August. The story doesn't discuss the precise capacity demands of 3D, but they certainly figure to be significant. The story says that the Qosmio "is part of a growing slate of glasses-free 3D products hitting the market." Some of these, presumably, rely on wireless networks.

The final example is a story in the International Business Times about the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the Motorola Droid Bionic. Again, increased screen resolution is a factor:

Samsung Galaxy S2 features a 4.3-inch 480 x 800 pixels Super AMOLED Plus capacitive touchscreen, while Motorola Droid Bionic comes with upgraded 4.5-inch qHD TFT capacitive touchscreen with 540 x 960 pixel resolution.

If Haraldsvik is on target - or nearly so - on the sharp increase in bandwidth demand, or even a moderate increase in resolution causes, the industry needs to take every opportunity to build its bandwidth inventory.

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