Atolls: Understanding Cellular Content Delivery

Motivation and approach

Cellular networks are becoming the primary or only Internet point of access for an ever larger fraction of users. Nearly a quarter of current web traffic is mobile and recent industry studies have estimated a fourfold increase on global mobile data traffic by 2018, mainly driven by the content demands and growing number of smart phones and tablets. However, cellular networks present a problem for existing network services since most network operaters prevent external traffic from entering, and thus measuring their networks. This has implications for network services such as content delivery networks, network coordinate and peer-to-peer systems.

Due to these constraints, measurement of cellular networks must come from the mobile clients themselves. This approach is currently limited by severe coverage problems and inconsistencies due to the spatial and temporal variations in wireless traffic.

Our work focus on first characterizing the network landscape withing cellular networks - illuminating behavior of network operations such as cellular DNS services and internal cellular routing. In addition to this characterization, we are building platforms and tools for measuring network performance from end-hosts for use by the entire community.

Why Atolls?

Atolls are ring-shaped coral reefs which reside on the rims of eroded or submerged volcanos, and encircle a lagoon. Life with this lagoon can be quite different than the surrounding ecosystem. Any comparisons between the walled garden of cellular networks in reference to the wider Internet, and this isolated lagoon are left as an exercise entirely to the reader.




  • Namehelp Mobile for Android. Cellular operators lock down the choice of DNS service on their devices, limiting consumer choice, and prohibiting them from potentially higher performing and more reliable Public DNS services. Measure the performance of your DNS choice on resolution performance as well the performance of content replica selection.


  • Behind the Curtain Dataset:

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