Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mobile device usage trends and the repercussions.

Hi everyone,

As we gradually build up to that busy time of the year, I thought it would be befitting to provide some information about relevant trends and what is going on with the network as a whole. As such, following on from similar entries, here is a quick update containing some statistics.

First of all... We hit the 10 million connections mark! and with that milestone, a total of 359,135,308.09 MegaBytes (342.5 TeraBytes!) of data has been transferred through Zenbu systems since 2006.
"What is a Megabyte?"

To do the cliche sales pitch often used for storage devices... that is;

Transferring, this Zenbu logo [gif] (2537 Bytes) 148,435,421,685 times!
This image of Ruapehu [jpg] (207,253 Bytes) 1,817,009,475 times!
This image of Rangitoto [jpg] (527,648 Bytes) 713,696,753 times!

Loading the list of "Zenbu Wireless Internet Wi-Fi Hotspots" [PDF] which is updated daily [490,666 Bytes = 0.4679 (4dp) MegaBytes @ 2013/09/13 1645] approximately ~ 767,488,810 times.

Sending the text from the world's longest novel 313,523,292 times!

[Guinness World Record] ("A la recherche du temps perdu" by Marcel Proust containing an estimated 9,609,000 characters = 9,609,000 bits = 1,201,125 Bytes = 1.1455 MegaBytes)

Several lifetimes streaming and listening to music in MP3 format!
2915.36 years @ bitrate [32 Kbits/s] (lowest possible quality of MP3)
971.79 years @ bitrate [96 Kbits/s] (somewhat low quality MP3)
728.84 years @ bitrate [128 Kbits/s] (mid range quality MP3)
583.07 years @ bitrate [160 Kbits/s] (mid range quality MP3)
485.89 years @ bitrate [192 Kbits/s] (often used high quality MP3)
291.54 years @ bitrate [320 Kbits/s] (highest possible quality of MP3)

According to the Youtube live encoder settings and dependent on the file format, video & audio codecs of the video being watched;
Between 133.27 and 310.97 years of [426x240] 240p Youtube videos!
(@ Bitrate MIN 300 Kbits/s MAX 700 Kbits/s)
Between 93.29 and 233.23 years of [640x360] 360p Youtube videos!
(@ Bitrate MIN 400 Kbits/s MAX 1000 Kbits/s)
Between 46.65 and 186.58 years of [854x480] 480p Youtube videos!
(@ Bitrate MIN 500 Kbits/s MAX 2000 Kbits/s)
Between 23.32 and 62.19 years of [1280x720] 720p Youtube videos!
(@ Bitrate MIN 1500 Kbits/s MAX 4000 Kbits/s)
Between 15.55 and 31.09 years of [1920x1080] 1080p Youtube videos!
(@ Bitrate MIN 3000 Kbits/s MAX 6000 Kbits/s)

A whopping 831.33 days of video feed at the maximum bitrate specified for Bluray video! [40 Mbit/s]

Or... perhaps of more relevance for those operators out there, you could simply watch this video (6,484,979 bytes) about mounting the Zenbu router (
WRT54GL) to the wall 58,069,681 times.

Oh the possibilities! ;)

(Correlating this with the last time we checked; in the space of 9 months that is an increase of 3.6 million connections and 153,219,204 MB data transferred (about two fifths the total in just the last year.) ...and if I do say so myself, WOW!)

So now, with that big announcement out of the way let us move along.

Using the same method / sampling as in previous entries, below is a simple collation and breakdown on the device types and mobile Operating Systems that were used by people when visiting our website (page-views) this previous July.

As we can see, the expected shift towards mobile devices has steadily continued and page-views from such mobile devices now account for about 54% of the total page-views to our website. (This is an increase of 16% over the results reported a year ago in October 2012.)

While the number of desktop page-views per month having decreased (by about 10,000~20,000) does have a contributing effect to this trend, by in large the results are just plain due to the proliferation of mobile devices into the consumer market. Quite simply, an explosive increase in the number of page-views from such mobile devices.

Regardless of this enormous expansion in mobile device usage however, it would seem that the relative share of the mobile device pie by each of the Operating System has not really changed at all.
This can be seen by Apple's share having only increased by a fractional 0.72% (to approximately 63%). Likewise, while the Android and Apple smartphones have swapped places, they are still neck and neck.

But what are the effects of this steadily increasing trend towards mobile handheld device use and what does this mean for those of you who are operating / utilising Zenbu systems?
Well, to discuss this topic, I would first like to start off by debunking a common misconception regarding wireless signals and the hardware that propagates them...

So to start off, for those that may be under the impression that signal emission from your wireless routers (Zenbu included) and access points is diminishing in strength over time (aka 'ageing')
...this is not the case.

There are no moving parts in a router so mechanical 'ageing' is out of the question. If anything were to be 'ageing' it would be electrical and it would be first and foremost the capacitors (which over time, just like rechargeable batteries, hold less and less total charge).

Routers can however, get damaged and as a consequence die.
Note: You can increase the likelihood that your router will be damaged by placing it in unsatisfactory conditions such as;

* Temperatures under 0°C or over 40°C (heat stress damage! thermal expansion / compression! Do not put the Zenbu router in a freezer, a hot ceiling cavity, above a fireplace or over a cooking range.)
* 85%+ humidity (Rust is a big one especially near the ocean but regardless; Water and electronics are simply not compatible! Getting the router wet will likely short the components if electricity is flowing.)
* Connecting to dodgy electrical sockets + electrical surges. (This can fry ports, the internal radio, and often will just break your router.)

All the above things that will break your router... are totally unrelated to the strength of the wireless signal. You either have a working internal radio, sufficient electricity to power it and thus a current from the radio to the antennae... or you do not.
The EM radiation emitted by antennae are constant. The physics involved do not change. Sure, people can come along and physically damage the router but the things that may change over time are the;
  • Surrounding noise floor. (e.g. interference from the newly installed wireless equipment, other WiFi capable devices, etc. The more WiFi signals in the area, the more noise and as such interference there will be on the frequencies they operate.)
  • Placement and composition of materials in the environment. (Concrete walls, metal sheeting and objects, etc)
  • and the capabilities of user devices themselves.
    (While it may be stylish, metallic casing is a poor choice when it comes WiFi communication [and also cell reception for that matter]. Conductors, which most metals are, reflect almost 100% of radio waves within the first few atoms of the surface.)
(Note: Something that does not take place over time but happens instantly and will damage your routers internal radio resulting in a forever weak signal / no signal at all;
  • Replacing the antennae while the power is on.
  • Replacing the antennae incorrectly.
  • Replacing the antennae with something of poor quality.
We recommend coverage extension devices, connected to port 1 of the Zenbu router, over replacing the antennae for a good reason.)

So, given the increased number of mobile devices in use and understanding that mobile devices generally do not provide as robust wireless connectivity as their pc/laptop/usb dongle counterparts... it is expected that relatively the proportion of users that experience poor reception would increase (and with it the total number of complaints that the internet service is 'not working' or 'not good enough' will to).

This gradual increase in and shift of users to such mobile devices (and the resulting increase in aggregate floor noise) thus gives rise to an illusion that the signal strength is weakening over time and as a result the effective coverage reducing in radius.
The reality however is that, for the most part; users are trading off functionality for mobility and fashionability.

So in conclusion, what does this mean for operators and users?

For the operator;
Where wireless coverage may have been sufficient a few years ago, now there could be a necessity to install additional access points.
The areas that may or may not need further coverage would of course be determined by customer demand and your preference / discretion.

For the user;
Caveat Emptor. Not all devices are created equal. If WiFi receptivity is important to you, make sure to research what you are getting into by purchasing for example, 'a metal brick'.