Connected vehicles could create data traffic jams

May 22, 2015

The connected vehicle shows great promise for improving automotive safety, and the technology has been championed by GM chief executive Mary Barra. But just make sure you keep your connected car away from traffic jams. According to a new study from Machina Research, rush-hour traffic could boost network data traffic by 97% in some cells—posing significant network-management challenges.

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

Machina Research estimates that all worldwide M2M connections will grow from 250 million in 2014 to more than 2.3 billion in 2024 but will account for only 4% of overall network traffic.

“In terms of overall data volumes, connected cars don’t present much of a problem,” Hatton continued. “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.”

The Machina Research study was commissioned by network assurance and analytics company TEOCO. “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 of technology and strategy at TEOCO. “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.”

Machina Research offers several recommendations for dealing with increasing M2M traffic: dynamic network management and RAN optimization, support for greater diversity in network access, more sophisticated planning tools, a focus on device management, and a more considered approach to spectrum re-farming. Unlike cellphones, the company explains, M2M devices will often have lifespans measured in decades and be located in hard-to-reach places.

A PDF of the report is available here.

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