How Many Servers Do the Mobile Companies Need to Support All These iPhones?


While the big news today will obviously be whatever new gadgets Apple releases, the impacts will fall heavily onto the carriers -- AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. Because for every 600 smartphones sold, a carrier needs to add one server to its network, VentureBeat executive editor Dylan Tweney reports in his latest newsletter. (It'll be available on the web tomorrow here.)

So if those reports that Sprint is going to purchase 30.5 million iPhones turn out to be true, that means they'll need 51,000 servers over the next few years. To give you an idea for the scale of that investment, Facebook was estimated to use just 60,000 servers to run all of its operations last year.

Those infrastructure costs might be bad news for the carriers, but it's good news for hardware vendors, as Tweney points out.

Talk to AT&T, which has struggled -- or perhaps dragged its heels -- to install enough back-end hardware and cell towers to support all the iPhones it sold, and to Verizon, whose infrastructure let it capitalize on AT&T's weakness. Even Google owes an often-overlooked debt to the genius of its hardware engineers, which let the company make the most of its clever search and ad-sales algorithms.

If you think that all the companies that built that infrastructure are just going to step aside while software startups extract value from it, you're mistaken.
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