Welcome to the decade of M2M: the challenges facing operators

We hear that M2M connections are destined for exponential growth over the next few years but thoughts vary on exact numbers. So while M2M evolution is looking pretty tough to predict, what we can predict is that each new use for M2M will create new, specific challenges for the mobile operators. But there are also three prime, ‘generic’ challenges that we believe operators will need to address. Today, we’ll introduce two of those challenges; in a second post, we’ll bring in the third challenge and ask the question: “Given the challenges, what are the requirements?”

Of course, security or more specifically, secure authentication tops the list. The issues this creates for operators are:

  • How will devices be recognised, and how will M2M services be associated with a given device?
  • How will device ‘entitlements’ be managed? Entitlement data can be maintained in multiple places including with the M2M application provider, M2M service provider, 3G or 4G provider.
  • How can operators manage entitlements for groups of similar devices while still providing unique controls for specific devices?
  • How will devices securely access the network? Security exchanges are complex and forever evolving using multiple identity methods.

Second, is the nature of the M2M connection itself and identifying what impact the connectivity will have –, is it ‘bursty’ or ‘thirsty’?

Is constant, ubiquitous or unpredictable connectivity required? Or can connectivity be scheduled at specific times (in bursts) when demands on the network are low?

  • Some M2M networks – especially public safety networks – require constant ubiquitous connectivity to their home base/HQ.
  • A certain QoS level may be necessary – perhaps to access data-heavy applications like HD video streaming during certain times or events.
  • Data will need to be prioritised from certain devices for a period of time; imagine the real-time use of head-mounted cameras by security personnel, for example.

An M2M network may need the ability to provide bandwidth priority to certain devices for short periods of time, then go back to normal connection levels (relatively low). It is very expensive to maintain a network where everyone can have access to very high bandwidth at all times.

We’re out of space today so, in a second post, we’ll come back to the third primary challenge facing operators, and suggest a list of primary requirements for a successful M2M deployment.

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