Mobile data will strain 3G networks to breaking point in 2011

3G networks around the world will be heavily tested by an onslaught of data-hungry smartphones in 2011 says Juniper Research in its December report on the Top Ten Wireless Predictions for 2011.

Network operators have already started to combat the "consumer smartphone boom" by putting in place tiered data pricing and phasing out unlimited data plans, but these measures may not be enough to ease the pressure on the already congested networks.

"Tiered pricing (and the use of WiFi as capacity relief) may serve to alleviate the problem to a certain extent, but until we see mass deployments of LTE networks (and, equally important, devices that are LTE-capable), then operators face a nervous period of attempting to manage the transition" says Juniper Research.

In 2009 and 2010 mobile application developers embraced Augmented Reality (AR) using it to enhance local search and reference.

Next year consumers can expect to see an influx of AR applications produced by the retail industry - locations and products will be geotagged with brand-specific information and consumers might even get to try on virtual clothes before buying them online.

Game developers will also jump on the AR trend in 2011. HQ Wireless' forthcoming Star Wars Arcade: Falcon Gunner is likely to be the first of many such titles says Juniper Research.

Mobile phone payment systems will start being adopted by mainstream users within the next year as handsets that support the technology arrive in the market.

On December 5 Google unveiled its forthcoming Nexus S smartphone with integrated NFC (Near Field Communication) for mobile payment. Apple is largely rumored to be investigating mobile payment systems too for its next generation iPhone.

Additional predictions for the wireless industry in 2011 include the launch of cloud-based operating systems and mobile handsets that are equipped with enhanced sensitivity.

Next year will also see mobile devices targeted with malicious threats resulting in the need for mobile-specific security.

Top Ten Wireless Predictions 2011:

1. Surging Mobile Data Traffic
2. Augmented Reality to Enhance Mobile Games and Retail
3. Cloud-Based Operating Systems are Launched
4. Mobile Banking will become a "must-have" when opening a new account
5. Mobile Devices Begin to Replace Credit Cards
6. Mobile Handsets Become Even More Sensitive
7. Mobile Lottery Tickets Sales to Soar Fuelled by Deployments in US, Europe, and China
8. Mobile-Specific Threats Lead to Demand for Mobile-Specific Security
9. Buyouts take Social Purchasing to a New Level
10. More Vendors Develop a "GreenHeart"