Vehicles to make up 98% of M2M traffic by 2021

Mobile network operators are about to see a windfall from machine networks used to drive IoT and smart cars

Vehicles to make up 98% of M2M traffic by 2021

The interior of a Tesla Model S is shown in autopilot mode in San Francisco, California, U.S., April 7, 2016.

Credit: REUTERS/Alexandria Sage

Anyone doubting that the future of the automobile will be highly connected might want to take a look at numbers recently released by consultancy Juniper Research.

Infotainment and telematics are going to make up 98 percent of all machine-to-machine (M2M) traffic by 2021, it says.

M2M data traffic is direct communication between devices. Infotainment includes services such as music streaming, and telematics includes navigation coupled with tracking, fleet management, automated accident reporting and so on.

+ Also on Network World: Connected cars will overload mobile networks, report says +

This will be a windfall for mobile network operators (MNOs) and is coming in the nick of time, as traditional voice and text traffic declines and smartphone growth stalls.

Juniper says we’re going to see 6,000 petabytes (PBs) of M2M data globally per year by 2021. One PB is a million gigabytes. That 6,000 PB figure is the equivalent of 300 billion hours of music, the firm says.

"The wider M2M market offers a reprieve from declining traditional voice and messaging revenues. Operators are now champing at the bit to capitalize on the growth of M2M,” the study’s research author, Sue Barker, says in the firm's press release.

Driving M2M growth

Autonomous cars will also drive M2M growth. That includes vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) data traffic, which is where cars communicate with each other in ad hoc networks. It’s likely to be used for collision avoidance.

Connected car services will also include vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-pedestrian data communications.

“Smart parking and smart intersections will further drive data usage,” Juniper says. As will over-the-air (OTA) software updates that are usually performed in-dealer.

IoT areas such as “healthcare, agriculture, smart metering and smart home automation” will see “significant increases in adoption,” Barker’s study says. Those IoT connections will not be as “data-hungry” as vehicles, she believes. That’s why the preponderance of M2M traffic projected is vehicular.

However, those IoT verticals will be important. Smart metering promises to reduce costs for the utility vendor, as well as the customer, and make reading more accurate and timely. It’s also easier to cut people off for non payment—if you think that’s a good thing. Point-of-sale terminals will see growth if, as many in the banking sector hope, cash becomes less important.

Smart homes, security and consumer electronics should drive growth, too, Juniper says in a separate report, published last month.

“The development of the eReader, particularly Amazon’s Kindle, which is based on a non-subscription business model for the underlying connectivity, introduced a major new vertical to the M2M market,” the study points out.

That was the last time the M2M industry got majorly aflutter, but that one could actually turn out to be a wash-out as readers turn to traditional subscription-based tablets and large phones.

New tech called embedded SIMs, or eSIMS, is “set to accelerate the adoption of M2M technologies, further enabling IoT,” though, the study says. In that format, network authorization isn’t in the same card-based form-factor as traditional SIMs. More convenient remote provisioning and easier switching of networks should be a benefit.

MNOs need to get ready overall, Barker suggests, that’s due to a “potential strain on networks.” Music streaming and infotainment will use a lot more data than traditional M2M, she emphasizes.

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