The mobile cloud is set to ‘subsume’ cloud computing as we currently know it, according to a study released yesterday by Heavy Reading. Despite cloud’s obvious benefits to the business enterprise, it is the mobile industry where recent hype has centred, with much of the focus based on how companies such as Google, Apple and Samsung are using cloud to woo new customers.

According to the report, ‘The Mobile Cloud: Ready or Not, Here It Comes’ the development of mobile cloud solutions has been subject to important prerequisites that are now, in 2012, starting to take shape – the availability of adapted mobile devices, high-speed and consistent mobile broadband, data traffic volumes, and cloud applications and storage facilities.

And, as each of these prerequisites is currently being facilitated at a rapid pace, it suggests there has been “a paradigm shift in business models, with mobile becoming a key feature in the cloud computing conundrum”.

“If there had been no development of cloud computing in the last few years, it would have been necessary to invent the cloud – just for mobile,” the report specifies.

“The mobile cloud is a crucial and inevitable development that will have a massive effect on mobile communications and the entire IT industry in the coming years. In this study, we conclude that the mobile cloud will subsume cloud computing.”

Indeed, the study highlights six key factors now driving the push towards the ‘mobile cloud’  becoming the main element of cloud computing people most refer to. They included:

Mobile Broadband
As the report states, “when the authors forecast in 2006 that mobile would overwhelm fixed communications in the broadband sphere more rapidly than it had in the voice market, this was considered a radical notion. Yet in five short years, it has already happened, with mobile users accounting for 67% of broadband access and the disparity growing every day. Broadband is a mobile phenomenon.”

Traffic Deluge
“Mobile traffic growth is being wildly underestimated by industry forecasts – most prominently the widely cited Cisco Visual Networking Index. We believe there is a stunning disconnect in the telecom/wireless industry consensus, and that the forthcoming demand for mobile data services will clearly be at least ten times the prevailing industry forecasts and estimates in the next five years and beyond. The industry is in a state of denial about the level of traffic that is coming in the next five years – ten times the Cisco forecast, which itself is being heavily discounted by the industry as excessive.

“The excerpt below summarises the comparison of forecasted traffic per U.S. cell site, by category of cell site, comparing our methodology against the Cisco VNI. While the Cisco VNI study indicated a total U.S. demand for mobile data of about 989 petabytes per month by 2015, our analysis concluded that demand would be about 10,620 petabytes per month in that time frame.”

Mobile Device Evolution
Mobile devices are evolving rapidly in ways that make them into “cloud devices.” Over the past five years, these devices have been revamped, from “phones” with some limited data capabilities to handy computers with a mounting number of ancillary capabilities. This involves a paradigm shift from the “single device” concept to the “small number of devices,” all of which will sync through the cloud. With multiple cores, high-resolution screens and ancillary capabilities such as dual cameras, these devices are not designed as standalone devices. They presume the existence of a cloud to reach their full potential and utilize the ever more complex and demanding range of mobile apps.”

Advanced Mobile Networks
Networks are rapidly advancing toward “4G” status, which will enable a multiplicity of cloud functions to be performed efficiently. [In the US,] Verizon Wireless LTE covers a population of about 200 million, AT&T more than 70 million. (AT&T currently has HSPA+ coverage, as does T-Mobile, in substantial parts of their networks; Sprint/Clearwire covers about 120 million people with WiMax.) Verizon and AT&T should have national LTE coverage by 2014.”

“The world of mobile apps is the most vibrant area of the entire IT universe. Increasingly, these apps are being designed to rely on the cloud.

User Empowerment
“The sudden rise of social networking is empowering users, changing the relationship between users and providers. With the mobile cloud, we expect this train of events to reach a new level of proactive communities that change the dynamics of areas such as search, but also profoundly affect marketing practices. This will be accelerated by the mobile cloud because of the factor of personalisation.”

The study also highlighted the rate at which it expected the mobile cloud to expand, citing 2015 as a key year for full adaptation among businesses and consumers, in line with the wider availability of 4G broadband networks:

Three Stages of the Mobile Cloud: Timing, Focus & Network Status