WhatsApp is the most popular mobile messaging platform in the world, and is one of the applications which consume the most resources on local networks.
Vodacom told MyBroadband that WhatsApp generates continuous and significant traffic on its network.
“Data shows that from 06:00 till after 20:00 in the evening, most of our subscribers are active on the messaging application,” Vodacom said.
“Even at midnight, more than 20% of people are still sending and receiving messages on the Vodacom network.”
Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive for Corporate Affairs at MTN SA, told MyBroadband that WhatsApp is one of the top traffic contributors on their network.
“Coupled to this, the traffic burstiness of instant messaging application such as WhatsApp has an impact on the utilisation in the radio and core network,” she said.
Millions of WhatsApp data packets
The nature of WhatsApp means that data packets can be smaller than when doing something like downloading or watching videos, but not by much.
In fact, the average downlink packet is 1KB in size. This is an indication that WhatsApp has moved from just a simple messaging platform to a more inclusive multimedia environment.
The popularity of WhatsApp means that WhatsApp traffic on Vodacom’s network exceeds 2 million packets per second, and transfers around 2GB per second at peak times.
The chart below shows WhatsApp traffic on Vodacom’s network over a two-day period.
Big network investments needed
To ensure that it can deliver a reliable and fast network to its millions of WhatsApp users, Vodacom continues to invest heavily in its network.
As an example, Vodacom spent R2 billion on capital expenditure for the quarter ended June 2018, focusing on new sites, upgrades, and capacity to improve network quality and performance.
“Over the last three years, Vodacom has invested over R26 billion in our network in South Africa alone,” the company said.
O’Sullivan said continuous mechanisms are being investigated to manage the growing traffic types on the MTN network, which include video streaming and instant messaging.
These enhancements are done on both the radio network and the core network.
“Migration of users to LTE and additional spectrum to create capacity in constrained areas will assist to manage such effects,” she said.