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IoT ’emerging unknown’ in network equation: Report

April 13, 2016  

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Surging consumer and business demand for mobile content, either at home or on the go, will outpace the ability of service providers to provide it unless investments are accelerated in areas like 5G and the cloud, according to a report released today by Bell Labs Consulting, a division of Nokia Bell Labs.

The report, which focuses on the future of wireless networking for the new digital era, analyzed the future demand for digital content and services, rather than just looking at past and current mobile traffic trends.

Across the study’s five identified application areas — streaming, computing, storing, gaming and communicating — Bell Labs Consulting found that audio and video streaming will be the highest contributors to the increased traffic demand in coming years, accounting for a 79% total increase by 2020.

Its models show that by 2020, 67% of the worldwide consumption demand forecast can be met by Wi-Fi. Another 14% can be addressed by the current adoption rate of 3G, LTE, small cells and the emergence of new technologies such as 5G.

“Between now and 2020, that leaves 19% of demand unable to be satisfied based on current and projected economics,” Bell Labs Consulting said in a release. “Thus, network operators will need to accelerate their path to 5G and cloud technologies, such as network function virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN), and adopt new business models to address the demand gap.”

The report notes that the emerging unknown in the network equation is IoT. “The number of IoT connected devices is expected to grow from 1.6 billion in 2014 to between 20 and 46 billion by 2020. Of this total, cellular IoT devices will be between 1.6 billion and 4.6 billion in 2020. Despite this massive adoption, the overall cellular traffic generated by IoT devices will only account for 2% of the total mobile traffic by 2020 until video-enabled sensors and cameras begin to predominate.

“However, even in the near term IoT traffic will generate a substantially higher volume of signaling traffic relative to data traffic. For example, a typical IoT device may need 2,500 transactions or connections to consume 1 MB of data, while the same amount of data can be consumed in a single mobile video connection. As a result, daily network connections due to cellular IoT devices will grow by 16 to 135 times by 2020 and will be three times the connections initiated by human generated traffic.”

Other key findings in the report include the following:

* By 2020, global consumption demand for digital content and services on mobile and portable devices will see a global average increase of 30 to 45 times from 2014 levels — with some markets experiencing as much as a 98-fold jump.

* Region to region, the unaddressed consumption demand ranges from 3-36%, globally averaging around 19%.


“The next evolution of humankind will involve ‘life automation’, and the creation of a world in which billions of interconnected things including smart objects, cameras, robots, sensors and processes exchange real time video and data streams — not only with people, but with cloud-based systems that extract knowledge from this data and perform tasks to make our work and home lives more convenient and our environments more intelligent,” said Marcus Weldon, president of Nokia Bell Labs.

“This new digital era will produce a dramatic shift in demand, challenging mobile operators to achieve the highest performance at the lowest cost per bit while supporting extensive personalization.”