The technology, Network Controlled Fast Dormancy, first appeared in Nokia handsets earlier this year. Apple included it in iOS 4.2.1, released a couple of weeks ago, but it wasn’t publicized until a mention in a Nokia blog post.
NCFD deals with the problems caused by smartphones needing to connect to a mobile network frequently, but only for a brief spell. Examples include automated checks for e-mails, or applications checking for updates.
Previously hardware designers were left with two options, both with major drawbacks. One was to have the phone switch back into an idle state when it was finished, then reconnect as and when it was needed. That meant it had to go through the entire process of hooking up with a network every single time, which was slow and not very efficient as the amount of data sent back and forth during this process was largely the same, regardless of how much data the application actually needed to send.
The other option was to leave the smartphone active and connected at all times, which saves time but is a recipe for battery drain.
The NCFD system allows phones to stay in an “intermediate” state, which finds a happy medium of cutting down the amount of work needed to connect each time, while reducing the overall battery use. According to Nokia, the volume of signals that have to be dealt with by networks can be cut by half using NCFD.
For the system to work, it needs both the handset and the network to be compatible. Nokia has introduced NCFD on the networks it manages, which it says serve around one in four users worldwide. It also notes that between Nokia and Apple, the technology is now usable by half the world’s mobile handsets.