Communication technologies have evolved rapidly over the past decade and the pace of change continues to accelerate. The latest trend today is the growth of Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications. It’s expected that the number of connected devices in the IoT/M2M industry will multiply exponentially, putting an unprecedented load on cellular infrastructure.
To cope with rising demand, the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Program), a collaboration of telecoms associations, is defining new specifications for mobile networks.
In this post, we’ll talk about the challenges posed by the IoT/M2M explosion and likely consequences. We’ll also talk about the requirements needed to address these demands.
An Accelerated Evolution
Mobile technology has undergone massive changes since digital 2G networks entered the scene in the early nineties. Web support became a reality with the introduction of General Packet Radio System (GPRS) and fast Web browsing, and video calls were made possible by 3G networks.
With the adoption of Long Term Evolution (LTE), even high-definition video streaming has become practical.
As data transfer costs fall, speeds increase, and consumers demand more digital engagement, it’s natural that businesses will leverage cellular networks for more than just telephony and web content. The IoT/M2M ecosystem currently includes industries like healthcare, utilities, automotive, and others are expected to jump on the bandwagon.
Additionally, users are increasingly embracing cellular technology at a rapid rate. According to a market intelligence company, the number of active wireless connected devices will double to about 40 billion by 2020.
Many M2M devices currently use GPRS for connectivity. Up until recently, this has been practical because M2M devices required relatively low data rates. Moreover, GPRS enabled longer battery life and more reliable connectivity than 3G. However, as networks move to LTE technologies, M2M connectivity solutions will need to change.
LTE: The Cost/Mobility Glitch
LTE networks are a natural choice for IoT applications but there are limitations.
A major concern is LTE band fragmentation. Because it is very expensive to support several bands on a single device, LTE limits global mobility. M2M devices are either limited to local use – or very expensive.
Adaptation & Cooperation: Preparing for the IoT/M2M explosion
As the number of devices increases rapidly, cellular IoT will be the preferred medium of connectivity in the M2M space. This will require that both M2M modules and LTE networks are standardized. M2M modules will need to be updated and optimized, while LTE networks are redesigned for the new “M2M.”
Inadequate implementation on either side could become a major bottleneck for successful IoT deployment. To prevent this, the 3GPP has introduced a Machine Type Communications (MTC) architecture, which standardizes features and specifications for cellular networks and M2M.
In the next blog post, we’ll explore the requirements needed for adaption in the cellular ecosystem.