Periodic transfers in mobile applications: Network-wide origin, impact, and optimization

Feng Qian, Zhaoguang Wang, Yudong Gao, Junxian Huang, Alexandre Gerber, Z. Morley Mao, Subhabrata Sen, Oliver Spatscheck

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

82 Scopus citations


Cellular networks employ a specific radio resource management policy distinguishing them from wired and Wi-Fi networks. A lack of awareness of this important mechanism potentially leads to resource-inefficient mobile applications. We perform the first network-wide, large-scale investigation of a particular type of application traffic pattern called periodic transfers where a handset periodically exchanges some data with a remote server every t seconds. Using packet traces containing 1.5 billion packets collected from a commercial cellular carrier, we found that periodic transfers are very prevalent in today's smartphone traffic. However, they are extremely resource-inefficient for both the network and enduser devices even though they predominantly generate very little traffic. This somewhat counter-intuitive behavior is a direct consequence of the adverse interaction between such periodic transfer patterns and the cellular network radio resource management policy. For example, for popular smartphone applications such as Facebook, periodic transfers account for only 1.7% of the overall traffic volume but contribute to 30% of the total handset radio energy consumption. We found periodic transfers are generated for various reasons such as keep-alive, polling, and user behavior measurements. We further investigate the potential of various traffic shaping and resource control algorithms. Depending on their traffic patterns, applications exhibit disparate responses to optimization strategies. Jointly using several strategies with moderate aggressiveness can eliminate almost all energy impact of periodic transfers for popular applications such as Facebook and Pandora.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWWW'12 - Proceedings of the 21st Annual Conference on World Wide Web
Number of pages10
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
Event21st Annual Conference on World Wide Web, WWW'12 - Lyon, France
Duration: Apr 16 2012Apr 20 2012

Publication series

NameWWW'12 - Proceedings of the 21st Annual Conference on World Wide Web


Other21st Annual Conference on World Wide Web, WWW'12


  • 3G networks
  • Periodic transfers
  • Periodicity detection
  • RRC state machine
  • Radio resource optimization
  • Smartphone applications


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