M2M growth necessitates a new approach to network planning and optimisation

1. Executive Summary

Growing numbers of machine-to-machine (M2M) connected devices, as part of the emergence of an Internet of Things, will create challenges for Mobile Network Operators. The absolute volume of devices and mobile network traffic will be ostensibly quite manageable, with M2M accounting for just 19% of connections and 4% of traffic.

However, traditional handsets, tablets and mobile broadband connections are relatively homogenous in their demands, in terms of usage, geographical location, criticality, security and numerous other criteria. M2M devices are much more diverse. As a result, M2M devices have the potential to place completely different demands on the network.

This White Paper provides a snapshot of the growth of M2M/IoT in terms of numbers of devices and traffic, examines the ways in which M2M can put different and unexpected strains on the network, with a particular focus on connected cars, and finally offers some perspectives on how this might necessitate some changes in network engineering and operations.

The key findings are as followings:

  • The growth in M2M devices will be substantial, with cellular connections increasing from 250 million to 2.3 billion in the next decade. Traffic will grow even more quickly from 200 petabytes in 2014 to 3.2 exabytes in 2014. However, M2M will account for only 4% of all cellular traffic in 2024.
  • M2M devices do not behave in the same way as handsets, tablets and other more established mobile devices. This may result in less manageable traffic patterns at particular times and in particular locations. For instance, our analysis of the connected car market shows that peak traffic in the busy hour in certain cells could double as a result of the numbers of connected cars.
  • Other applications have equally diverse requirements that could create challenges for MNOs, for instance: highly distributed agriculture applications having greater demand for rural coverage; healthcare or supply chain applications demanding more reliable connections to support life- or mission-critical applications; certain applications demanding reduced latency to enable real-time analytics; and proportionally greater signaling overhead from low traffic monitoring applications.
  • M2M growth necessitates intelligent network engineering and operations. There are a number of ways in which MNOs should rethink their approach to running their network to cope with M2M growth. These include implementing more dynamic network management and RAN optimisation, supporting more diverse access networks, adopting more sophisticated planning tools, and taking a more considered approach to spectrum refarming.

The growth of M2M has changed the rules of the game with regard to supporting devices on mobile networks. Any MNO that continues to plan and run its network without consideration for the requirements of M2M in all its diversity will suffer knock-on effects, either in terms of its ability to tap into this new revenue opportunity, or the side effects that it may have on user experience for all the users of the network.

Full version is download here

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