Home EuropeEurope I 2015 The Internet of Things presents new signalling concerns for mobile operators, as the number of devices and subscribers needing to join the network escalate

The Internet of Things presents new signalling concerns for mobile operators, as the number of devices and subscribers needing to join the network escalate

by Administrator
Robin KentIssue:Europe I 2015
Article no.:10
Topic:The Internet of Things presents new signalling concerns for mobile operators, as the number of devices and subscribers needing to join the network escalate
Author:Robin Kent
Title:Director of European Operations
PDF size:210KB

About author

Robin Kent is Director of European Operations at Adax Europe. For many years, Robin held senior positions within established equipment manufacturers, software houses and integrators in the telecom, wide area network, and office automation markets. He joined Adax in 1994 to establish the Adax business unit in Europe. He has overseen the company’s successful transition from an OEM technology supplier to a customer focused provider of high quality, high performance telecommunications products to network equipment providers and VAS companies throughout EMEA and India.

Article abstract

Larger volumes of data transfer and consumption mean that the strain on the network is being felt at various levels, and critical, evolved signalling and transport solutions are needed to match the demands that are being placed on the network.

Full Article

The number of devices globally with access to 4G/LTE is constantly rising. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept that is front of mind among tech aficionados and the demand from end users to be connected to the ‘smarter world’ is ever increasing. But there are consequences that this surge in traffic and the huge number of devices and subscribers accessing the network have for operators.

Network operators that are unprepared will be faced with a potentially severe ‘bottleneck’ in their network. There are basic issues with Diameter signalling that threaten to cause mass disruption to the network, which could lead to a diminished Quality of Experience (QoE) for network subscribers and also a potential loss in revenue for the operator.
The problem with Diameter is not Diameter itself, but rather its underlying transport protocol. Today’s commonly available SCTP is simply not up to the task of handling tens of thousands of very active connections every second. Embedded Linux SCTP may seem like the more convenient and economical (it’s free) solution but it cannot keep up with the multitude of connections and constant user activity that is the very essence of the new, flat, All-IP network.
The flat, All-IP, architecture of the LTE network requires a large number of signalling connections and concentration for efficient routing, and these connections are only going to increase as more devices join the network. The challenge for operators is pre-empting this problem by employing signalling solutions that can support more intelligent signalling and traffic patterns.

The solution that Adax has developed, SCTP/T, provides Diameter with thousands of robust and reliable associations; ensuring Diameter’s instant readiness and ability to carry the traffic required by the host application to any and all of its possible destinations.

Network demands render generic transport protocol ‘insufficient’
The hard truth is that the generic transport protocol that Diameter runs over, Stream Control Transmission Protocol (SCTP) is largely insufficient and just cannot cope with the specific signalling needs that the LTE network demands, not mentioning the demands that IoT will place on the network as well.

Larger volumes of data transfer and consumption mean that the strain on the network is being felt at various levels, and critical, evolved signalling and transport solutions are needed to match the demands that are being placed on the network.

The emergence of new technology, such as IoT technology, usually breeds other new technologies, largely by way of support, but with recent network developments and the uptake of LTE, current signalling transport technology is no longer sufficient. Transport protocols such as SCTP, in their existing form, are insufficient and operators have to address the problem that this will pose on LTE performance and find a more reliable and robust solution.

Keeping up with constantly evolving user habits
While it’s clear there are deficiencies in the standard SCTP protocol, the problem is far greater than signalling transport technology. Operators are running the very real risk of failing to keep up with their network subscribers’ habits, especially when it comes to IoT connectivity.

This isn’t a case of replacing the entire transport protocol; it’s more a case of implementing upgraded solutions that recognise the changing data consumption landscape. Unlike previous networks, operators are experiencing an unparalleled volume of simultaneous connections on the LTE network. The number of Diameter transactions is on a sharp increase and its underlying transport layer SCTP, is critical to maintaining a high level of customer experience on the network.
The challenges of data analysis
A creaking SCTP infrastructure is also having a huge impact on operators’ ability to analyse data. A reliable and robust transport layer, which can cope with thousands of signalling messages, is a fundamental part of the analytics process for operators. In a sense, it is one of the primary steps in the data analytics sequence. Data has to be delivered to operators on time, accurately and reliably. Unstable signalling will have a negative effect on network behaviour and distort analytic data. A weak SCTP can lead to many issues for analytics including data delivery and poor performance metrics.

There are core elements of the LTE network infrastructure that are simply inadequate and unable to support data-centric applications and users. When it comes to data analysis, it goes far beyond simply collecting user data for marketing purposes; it’s paramount to providing a better service to subscribers. If signalling transport protocol isn’t up to the task then there is minimal communication between the network and the operator.

The transport layer is not only important in the data analysis process; it also plays a significant part in the control of data consumption and the volume of transactions. This has become especially important following the vast uptake in data-centric applications. For Instant Messaging (IM) and VoIP communication along with video content downloads and sharing, which typically causes the most strain on the network, the transport layer is a vital component for operators.

Policy management, maximising revenue and effective billing
If the transport protocol cannot cope, then it poses a very problematic challenge for operators who are trying to manage the signalling messages that are coming through from the network. Again, the issue is forward planning as operators will be unable to identify popular items of data and subsequently manage or alter policy accordingly.

LTE has opened up a number of alternative revenue channels for operators but because there are signalling deficiencies in the network, there is a high risk that service providers will miss these essential opportunities to accurately bill users accordingly.

It’s true that the ability to control communications is seriously affected with inadequate transport protocols, but the power to control billing policy will also suffer because operators are effectively operating with their hands tied behind their backs. Information is not being transported correctly, and personalising their service plans will be near impossible.
Securing the next generation network
To overcome the challenges of an ageing signalling infrastructure, and to ready it for the smarter world, operators must look at a solution that performs vigilant in-service quality monitoring along with precise detection capabilities.

It’s not just a case of improving the reliability of signalling transport solutions, it’s also crucial that operators look at investing in transport technology that provides the necessary security for the network and its subscribers. The developments with IoT have worried some, who are unsure whether IoT devices that require network connectivity have the necessary security protection that is required of traditional devices accessing the network.

If there is a fault in the transport protocol, then operators are either getting mixed or incorrect messages that can compromise network security. Faulty signalling, on any level, is an invite to harmful content or unverified users to enter the network, which the operator has a depleted level of control over.

The critical importance of effective transport protocol
The LTE network is maturing quickly, but there are still fundamental problems with the basic infrastructure. With the developments in IoT technology, and with 5G on the horizon, the problems with inadequate network signalling capabilities in the core network have to be eradicated now, otherwise it won’t be a case of a ‘creaky infrastructure’; it will be that the infrastructure just doesn’t work.

As new technologies develop, that require network connectivity, it becomes incrementally important that basic network requirements, such as reliable signalling processes, are prepared and fully functional by the time the connecting technology is ready to be connected.


Related Articles

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More