App Quadrant 3

By Spirent On November 7, 2011
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In the previous versions of the Spirent (formerly Mu) App Quadrant we first compared the most popular video services, and then specifically focused on Netflix across multiple endpoints. Now, in this third edition we have looked at Skype. Not only is it one of the most popular voice apps on the internet with over 30 million users online at peak times, it’s also one of the biggest bandwidth guzzlers, due in part to the P2P nature of its architecture.

The Spirent (formerly Mu) App Quadrant III

Our comparisons looked at the impact Skype has on the network from both the operator and consumer persepctive from different endpoints, and we used the same two axes to compare and contrast:

  • “Consumer-friendliness” – The less bandwidth an application consumes, the more consumer-friendly it is.
  • “Operator-friendliness” – The fewer connections established by an app, the more operator-friendly it is, as less resources are consumed across the network.

For the tests, we used 5 devices, all wirelessly connected to the same LAN including: iPad, iPhone, Android (Sprint Nexus S 4G), MacBook (Mac OS X) and a PC running Windows 7. The most recent Skype client app was installed on the mobile devices.

Can you hear me now?

The graph below illustrates the comparison for voice calls and shows that the Mac client is both the least consumer-friendly and the least operator-friendly. Our data shows that the Mac will consume at least 28% more bandwidth and network resources than an iPhone, iPad, Android phone or PC. Conversely, the iPad and iPhone are the most operator-friendly, and Windows 7 is the most consumer-friendly.


Fig. 1 – Understanding the impact to Consumers and Operators of different mobile devices with Skype voice


We also looked at the instant messaging chat features of Skype, and the graph below illustrates the comparison. It shows that the Mac client is the least operator-friendly and that the iPad is the least consumer-friendly. Our data shows that Skype for chat on the Mac will consume at least 30% more network resources than the other endpoints, and that the iPad will consume at least 39% more bandwidth than the other endpoints. Conversely, Windows 7 is the most operator-friendly and the MacBook is the most consumer-friendly.


Fig. 2 – Understanding the impact to Consumers and Operators of different mobile devices with Skype IM

So what gives?

Again, the results of these comparisons show the major differences between different endpoints of the same application when it comes to their impact on the network. The reasons for these differences can only be based on speculation. Differences may be due to computing capacity of the devices, auto-throttling based on network conditions, or perhaps the properties of the underlying operating systems when it comes to their networking services.

Regardless, operators and service providers continue to struggle with the unpredictable demand on their networks (and the adverse affects they commonly have) because of the growth of these apps, and the smartphones and tablets that are enabling them. As such, recreating these applications in the test environment as quickly as possible becomes imperative in order to gauge their impact on the network from a performance and security perspective.

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