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Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo has reportedly identified "Android app traffic" as the cause of a recent network outage which affected some 2.5 million of its customers. According to Japanese newspaper Nikkei, DoCoMo did not identify the app, aside from saying that it offered "free voice services."

The application apparently caused DoCoMo's network to buckle by sending out "control signals" rather than VOIP data. These are small amounts of data which are periodically exchanged between a smartphone app and a remote server, in order to check that the app is still running, and/or communicate any status changes.

DoCoMo intends to ask Google to limit the frequency at which Android sends these control signals, in order to reduce the strain on its network. However, the solution may not be quite so simple. The nature of Android means that an OS-level "fix" for DoCoMo's complaint would take months to roll out, if it were even possible. And if the app in question is a third-party offering from the Android Market, there's nothing Google can do to fiddle with its internal workings besides blocking DoCoMo customers' access to the app.

However, Google has shown a willingness to selectively block Android Market access to apps with which carriers have issue, notably tethering apps in the U.S. And then there was last year's strikingly similar case of YouMail and T-Mobile, which saw the app unceremoniously pulled from the Market at the request of the U.S. carrier. Whatever happens, we'll be watching with interest to see how Google deals with DoCoMo's complaint.

Source: Mobile World Live, Reuters

 
There are 4 comments

How much data could an application possibly be taking up with what is essentially a ping/heartbeat check? And how many of this carriers customers could possibly be running it to down the network? Sounds like they're just finger pointing here.

aleis says:

Hackers are going to love this!

Glenuendo says:

You would think they could reach out to the developers and tell them they are killing the network (I'm highly skeptical). Then work with them on how to avoid this problem. But then again, that would actually make sense.

amojeba says:

Yah seriously. I think the carrier knows Google can't do anything to "fix" the issue, so the carrier is hoping Google will just remove the app from Market.
And the carrier gets to charge for airtime / minute usage once again, which is what they're really after here.