Connected cars will create "traffic jams" for mobile networks

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/Joe_Potato)

During rush hour periods, we all expect the roads to become congested and our cars to crawl to their destination. But as we connect all these vehicles to mobile networks, it's the virtual highways which will come grinding to a halt unless preparations are in-place. 

A new independent study from Machina Research has revealed the challenges which connected cars will present to mobile operators; something which is expected to cause a 97% increase in data traffic over the next ten years. 

“Connected cars, as with other M2M devices, don’t behave like smartphones,” said Matt Hatton, founder and CEO, Machina Research. “They represent a very diverse set of challenges to operators through highly varying network traffic patterns at different times of the day.” 

Machina Research anticipates that mobile networks will see connections from connected cars increase from 250 million in 2014 to more than 2.3 billion worldwide by 2024. This might sound like staggering growth - and it is - but despite this the M2M market as a whole will represent just four percent of overall network traffic. 

Regardless, M2M devices such as connected cars represent a different challenge to what operators are used to with typical mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. 

Hatton continues, “In terms of overall data volumes, connected cars don’t present much of a problem. But network resource management is not based on total traffic volume, it’s based on particular cell sites during peak times of network use. If connected cars regularly cause network traffic spikes in a particular location that can’t be met, there are implications for operators in meeting SLAs and delivering a positive quality of experience.” 

Five key areas have been highlighted as what MNOs need to focus on improving in order to prepare for the influx of connected car traffic: 

  1. Supporting various networks and managing the interoperability between them - including Wi-Fi and LPWA networks. 
  1. Flexible network management and RAN optimisation which takes a multi-faceted approach and can cope with the various demand which different devices will put on the network for capacity and quality of service. 
  1. Comprehensive planning tools which can understand where demand will be created in the coming years thanks to the diverse range of M2M devices and their individual needs. 
  1. Manage individual devices' needs and ensure none being added to the network will interfere with others and create a downgrade in performance - implementing a certification process is one way to help deal with this. 
  1. Ensure spectrum re-farming gives consideration to how many M2M devices will be installed in hard-to-reach areas en masse with a long intended lifespan. 

“The connected car is just one of many M2M use cases that will put new and unusual demands on network usage that mobile operators will need to resolve,” said Steve Bowker, VP Technology and Strategy, TEOCO. 

Bowker continues: “In all cases, operators will need to identify where and when the network traffic is generated, measure the volume, and analyze the type of traffic as well. They’ll need to more seriously consider how to cope with these demands for reduced latency, higher bandwidth, more signaling and higher QoS. This requires a more sophisticated and comprehensive approach to mobile network planning.” 

Do you think some mobile networks will have issues dealing with connected cars? Let us know in the comments.

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Ben N
22 May 2015, 10:56 a.m.

They all will have issues as businesses and consumers expect always on regardless of their location or usage. Device and software manufacturers also need to consider the online to offline hand over carefully in this regard.


Paulo Meneses
26 May 2015, 2:52 a.m.

I think it does not matter how sophisticated that operators are willing to implement.

The problem is that used protocol and used technology, because for all protocols there are a transaction and negotiations limit, in other hand there are as well the methods and situations that will need to be present in the protocol that current protocols do not provide today

Are thousands of devices competing for a limited space in the frequency spectrum, causing more noise than conversation. Of course, some things will work, but will be far from what is expected.

No other way, we have to move forward, we have to go in the direction of this immense M2M connectivity and at some point we will reach our target.