The “Internet of Things”, the “Internet of Everything” and the “Connected Life” are just some of the buzzwords being used to describe physical objects being interconnected via the Internet. Analyst firms such as IDC are already estimating that the market will be worth upwards of $7 trillion with new devices deployed in almost every industry.
Gartner predicts that Machine to Machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) will include 26 billion units by 2020. Everything from vehicles and parking meters and medical devices to even clothes will be connected wirelessly. This tide of connected devices will generate extra data traffic and could pose problems. Why? That’s because mobile networks will play a pivotal role in transporting that data to maintain M2M and IoT connectivity.
Some mobile networks will struggle to cope and the congestion will inevitably lead to subscriber frustration.
What is causing the congestion?
Today’s mobile networks with LTE (4G)/3G/2G are a jungle of technologies. Originally, 2G networks, launched on a GSM standard, was to mainly serve voice calls and introduce encrypted data messaging. With the growth in data traffic, currently, most mobile operators rely on their 2G networks to carry M2M and IoT data traffic. However, 2G networks are still used as a ‘fallback’ even for LTE (4G) voice traffic.
LTE is a packet-based all-IP network that’s unable to support circuit-switched calls. So, when an LTE device needs to make or receive a voice call or SMS, the device “falls back” to 3G or 2G for termination. As a result, subscribers often switch back and forth between technologies and if the “fallback” is not smooth, the result is a dropped call and lost Internet sessions. Now, with the ever growing congestion on the 2G network, M2M and IoT traffic is getting disrupted.
Already mobile operators are facing a failure rate upwards of 30% for M2M and IoT sessions – and this directly impacts Service Level Agreements.
What can operators do to keep IoT traffic moving smoothly while maintaining Quality of Experience (QoE) for subscribers? One solution an increasing number of mobile operators have deployed is Self-Organizing Networks (SON), which orchestrates traffic across the different technologies and vendors. A recent report by industry analyst Infonetics highlighted why service providers need to consider a vendor-agnostic centralized SON (C-SON) solution to address the mounting complexity in 2G/3G/LTE networks.
The C-SON difference
The cellular network is comprised of an array of equipment from different infrastructure and technology vendors. Obviously we can now add to that the data flowing from IoT and M2M devices, which will also come from a plethora of vendors. C-SON provides operators with a solution for seamless IoT and M2M interoperability; furthermore, a successful C-SON implementation must work across different vendors and technologies in order to effectively manage traffic.
Although many SON solutions claim to run seamlessly across all technologies and vendors some SON solutions today still fail to cover 2G. For a C-SON solution to be effective, it needs to work across the different network layers (2G, 3G, LTE) and distribute the load for smooth voice traffic and IoT and M2M data transmission.
While the media spotlight is on 4G/LTE, the humble 2G spectrum still accounts for over 60% of all mobile connections globally and generates nearly $500bn in revenues – despite falling Average Revenues per User (ARPU).
When time is money
There is one sure-fire certainty. From SIM-enabled wearables to commercial drones, an abundance of IoT connected devices will come online over the next few years as Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) vie to capitalize on a lucrative market. Ultimately, it is the mobile network that has to carry the extra data burden from the IoT ecosystem. That makes it imperative for operators to make their networks fast, reliable and robust for IoT and M2M services.
Deploying a C-SON solution safeguards the network from any damage a potential disruption of service could cause. When subscribers have great QoE, operators can benefit from customer referrals and higher Net Promoter Scores. In an ultra-competitive market where every second counts, it’s the positive feedback and customer satisfaction that enables an operator to maintain loyalty and to stay one step ahead of the competition.