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Now that Pokemon Go has landed in Hong Kong and Japan – and is reportedly slated for release in other APAC countries any day now, including India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand – now is as good a time as any to let you know what impact the augmented-reality app sensation is going to have on mobile networks.
The short answer: you may be in for some serious network performance issues … but not necessarily where you think.
When Pokemon Go first launched earlier this month, many users in the US reported connection problems with Niantic’s game servers, which were reportedly overwhelmed by the sheer viral success of the app.
However, that’s mainly on the data center side of the equation. According to Frost & Sullivan principal analyst Dan Rayburn, there’s not much indication that Pokemon Go is congesting the mobile networks themselves.
On the other hand, there’s more to network performance than raw bandwidth. This blog post from Procera Networks showcases some interesting data from an unnamed cellco in Europe that experienced performance issues when Pokemon Go became available.
The main findings of interest to cellcos:
1. The Pokemon Go app doesn’t actually use all that much data, especially compared to Facebook, Instagram, YouTube etc.
2. However, it does generate lots of sessions between the app and the game servers whenever you check into a “pokestop” location, find a Pokemon or do battle with other players, etc. Those sessions consume network resources like analytics, charging, and security. When many players use the app at once , those sessions add up fast. The Procera study counted 7% of subscribers playing Pokemon Go within a three-hour period, with sessions taking up almost 1% of all sessions on the network, writes Procera’s global marketing VP Cam Cullen:
That may seem harmless, but remember that Pokemon Go has not yet fully monetized their model with advertising and sponsorships. So take that number, and then imagine that every 10 feet someone walks, a new sponsored ad pops up, or a company is paying Niantic to let them know when Pokemon players are near their location, generating a new session and data that gets sent back to the game servers. This may would likely pop the total up nearly exponentially, which would mean that mobile operators would have to do capacity planning with this as a major factor.
Cullen adds that Pokemon Go generated more connections per subscriber on that particular network than any other app, with the sole exception of BitTorrent.
It’s an anecdotal example that may not apply to all mobile networks (and admittedly, it’s an example that’s mainly intended to promote Procera’s application-aware analytics solutions). But it’s something cellcos should be aware of when Pokemon Go arrives in their market.
Also, it pays to remember that we’re talking about just one AR app. The success of Pokemon Go expected to bring more AR apps into the mainstream. Pokemon Go itself may not be clogging up networks right now, but imagine dozens of connection-dependent apps with a major social media component causing massive spikes of simultaneous usage in a given location.
You might want to be ready for that.