Connected cars will overload mobile networks, report says

Look for gridlock on the airwaves along with your traffic jam. A new report is projecting a massive increase in data traffic over the next few years, caused not by smartphones, but by M2M and automobiles.

Connected cars will overload mobile networks

If you think stop-and-go city traffic can be bad around rush hour, just wait until connected cars get in on the act and start bringing mobile networks to a standstill too. There isn't enough capacity, a new report says.

Market intelligence strategist Machina Research paints a gloomy connectivity picture of excessive growth from M2M, which includes connected cars.

Growth in that area threatens to disrupt all mobile data traffic.

Parking lot

UK-based Machina Research analyzes Internet of Things (IoT), M2M and Big Data. Its report says that mobile data will double in certain cells at rush hour. The report predicts a 97% increase over 10 years. The big driver will be cars.

By 2024, mobile networks will see M2M connections increase from 250 million in 2014 to more than 2.3 billion globally.

Resource management

Can the network operators anticipate it and build out accordingly? Well, it's not that simple. The issue isn't volume of traffic, it's resource management, the report says.

M2M will account for only 4% of traffic by 2024, the report says, but distinct cell sites will become overloaded during peak times due in part to the sheer number of connections.

Those cell sites will have to be managed to serve everyone—smartphones to M2M—without service degradation. And that planning isn't happening, the report implies.


"If connected cars regularly cause network traffic spikes in a particular location that can't be met, there are implications for operators" in meeting service-level agreements and delivering a positive quality of experience, Matt Hatton, founder and CEO of Machina Research says in a press release.


M2M connections, like those used in cars, don't consume data in the same way that a smartphone does. M2M doesn't put high demands on networks—the connections aren't all streaming high-definition video at the same time, for example.

Mapping and directions is one in-car use example. That use isn't as data-intensive as, say, video.

But those cars will cause spikes in certain geographic areas at peak times—a lot of cars in one place will saturate the cell. Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) need to start more seriously planning for that, the report suggests.


Among the recommendations is that there should be support for a "greater diversity in access networks." MNOs will need to "manage the inter-relationship of networks" available, including Wi-Fi and other unlicensed spectrum.

In other words, figure out how to get spectrum from where they can.

Device management

Also, device management should be tightened up.

The report suggests robust certification is necessary to stop potential interference and other degradation as possibly billions of IoT and other M2M devices proliferate.


And spectrum re-farming should be more carefully thought out. M2M devices, such as those to be found in cars, will have a longer lifespan than change-every-year smartphones. M2M is hard to swap out.

MNOs need to consider that when re-farming spectrum. Devices can't become obsolete too quickly—it will get too expensive and be too hard. Normal smartphone upgrade cycles won't apply.

The devices "will have lifespans measured in decades," the report says.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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