Mobile network congestion could see IoT failures hit 30% says ISV. Not yet if ever, analyst and CSPs reply

IoT congestion is forecast

Mobile operators could face a 30% failure rate for M2M and Internet of Things (IoT) sessions. So says one provider of self-organising networks (SON) solutions for wireless operators, Cellwize. Amid forecasts of up to 26 billion IoT devices by 20201, the solution vendor believes it has identified the potential pitfalls and the opportunities for mobile network operators. But when and why is this going to be an issue? Jeremy Cowan investigates.

With consumer interest piqued by IoT devices for ‘connected lives’, some mobile operators will struggle to manage network congestion – ultimately leading to frustrated subscribers, says Cellwize. To overcome network congestion and meet service level agreements (SLAs) for M2M/IoT services, the company believes mobile operators will need to turn to centralised self-organising network (C-SON) solutions.

Cellwize’s elastic-SON™ solution has reportedly cut congestion on one operator’s network by 90% – virtually eliminating network congestion – thereby easing M2M and IoT data traffic. Most IoT and M2M devices currently use 2G. The elastic-SON’s multi-technology (2G/3G/4G LTE) and multi-RAT capabilities are therefore said to make M2M and IoT transactions “seamless”.

elastic-SON reportedly dynamically reroutes network resources in near real-time, to help 2G networks manage bursts of M2M activity. Capabilities such as dynamic load balancing and coverage capacity optimisation enable the system to steer traffic away from congested zones and continuously allow M2M burst data to pass smoothly and delay-free.

“M2M and IoT technology has grown rapidly – but some mobile networks have not evolved,” said Ofir Zemer, CEO of Cellwize. “Along with 3G and LTE, we are one of the few SON vendors to tackle 2G network optimisation. This has been invaluable for operators experiencing slow data speeds. With IoT set to increase 2G data traffic, it is vital that operators are able to optimise and address capacity across all access networks to ensure their subscribers receive the best quality of service possible.”

Ofir Zemer, CEO of Cellwize
Ofir Zemer, CEO of Cellwize

M2M Now contacted operators and an analyst to assess the scale of the problem and to see how communication service providers (CSPs) are meeting their SLAs. Is M2M network congestion an issue now or likely to be a major issue for mobile network operators (MNOs) in the near future?

Problem, what problem?

One fast-growing central European mobile network operator that M2M Now approached said, “At the moment this topic is not an issue for us,” and declined to comment further.

Ian Miller, ‎director of Radio Access Networks at Telefónica said, “Sure SON solutions can help with network optimisation and network tuning, but they are a relatively recent innovation and most 2G and 3G networks have been built and operated well for nearly 20 or 10 years respectively without them. The key to meeting the required SLAs is to have the correct basic ingredients such as sufficient base stations to provide good coverage and capacity, together with enough spectrum. These basic ingredients are then supplemented with good planning such as frequency and neighbour planning and use of the correct feature sets to elicit best performance. C-SON type tools can then be added on top to keep the network optimised in a more efficient way than doing it manually.”

M2M Now then asked, “Do you expect network congestion to be a major issue for MNOs in the IoT?”

Miller replied, “In general, no. Network congestion will be a factor, but in general M2M / IoT does not generate high volumes of traffic as each data transaction is typically quite low volume. The increasing growth in smartphone penetration and usage is a bigger congestion challenge for network operators.”

We also asked Emil Berthelsen, principal analyst at Machina Research about the scale of the challenge, and what the alternatives are for MNOs trying to meet SLAs in the internet of things? SLA specialist Berthelsen commented: “M2M and IoT will generate a lattice of different connectivity technologies. These applications will leverage multiple 2G, 3G and 4G technologies, and mobile network operators have started to recognise that maintaining optimised multiple networks can no longer be sufficiently addressed by manual processes.”

Emil Berthelsen of Machina Research
Emil Berthelsen of Machina Research

“Centralised (C-SON) or distributed (D-SON) approaches will help overcome some of the challenges that MNOs will face in terms of simplifying Radio Access Network (RAN) management, maximising RF (radio frequency) and spectrum capacity and meeting service management levels of customers. But,” said Berthelsen, “insofar as there may be a business in helping MNOs overcome the congestion issues generated by M2M and IoT, providers of such solutions will have to wait some time yet as traffic on mobile networks will continue to face competition from other technologies such as short range technologies and / or low power, wide-area networks, and will limit the overall issue of congestion in the near future.”

1  Gartner Research, November 18, 2013
2 The impact of IoT on 2G networks and the role of C-SON in Cellwize’s latest whitepaper, Centralized Self-Organizing Networks (C-SON): Essential for M2M & IoT


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