Whether 260 feet underground riding public transit in Portland’s Robertson Tunnel or 20,310 feet above ground on Denali’s summit, consumers today expect that their devices will have a working, lightning-fast connection. These expectations are heightened for organizations looking to incorporate IoT initiatives into their business processes.
Increased bandwidth requirements from enterprise users make an already difficult problem more complex and challenging. Managing traffic growth, while providing consistently fast network speeds across all areas of the country, has proven to be an Achilles’ heel, standing in the way of IoT realizing its potential. Dead zones in rural areas and challenges in metro areas with heavy user density are still not uncommon, and both serve as barriers to IoT growth. Nearly every industry is touched by the aspirations of “smart experiences,” whether a car manufacturer or a sports venue owner. These innovations cannot mature without a strong data connection.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to solving the issue, a number of technologies are popping up that each hold a fragment of the key to increasing blanket coverage and delivering on the promise of IoT.
Fixing what’s already in place
The hype surrounding 5G is palpable, and for good reason. However, when considering specific use cases, such as tracking packages, it may be better to offload this type of data transfer to another network (like 3G). In instances where location data is smaller in footprint than a typical SMS text message, leaving the fastest network for the most critical data transfer can be a good approach.
It’s possible that the real “fix” is rolling out new towers or small cells in areas where there are currently dead zones. This approach will help to keep devices connected, using proven technology that’s already been deployed throughout the U.S.
Variable connectivity options
Rather than relying on one specific network, we’ll begin to see devices and data platforms that can draw info from a variety of sources that are available at any given moment. This can use data delivery techniques that are already in place, and those that are still nascent in their existence.
For instance, our company recently partnered with Sirqul, an IoT provider offering software that combines data across mesh networks to track and identify individuals’ behavior, location and intent. It faced a challenge getting valuable all-encompassing data in busy locations where Wi-Fi isn’t available to everyone. With our assistance, Sirqul can now bring smart experiences to life in more venues by utilizing high-speed cellular connectivity. This partnership is just one example of the importance of diversity of network sources.
Increase access to frequencies and densify across the board
The interconnected device forecast in 2020 is 25 billion according to Qualcomm’s white paper, “The 1000x Mobile Data Challenge.” For that amount of use, mobile network density and availability will both need to increase at incredible rates. The best way to address the challenge of providing connectivity for all IoT devices is densifying networks and creating more spectrum. In order to keep up with the traffic, more capacity in the radio access network will need to be created. Monitoring and implementing the latest in upgrades for system capacity, data rates and coming up with strategic new techniques for connectivity are the best ways to future-proof for 2020.
Each mobile carrier has debuted its plan for 5G connectivity, and testing is underway in some instances. Furthermore, early testing for unlicensed spectrum in the CBRS and LAA bands has been largely positive. Innovation in these bands could be a boon to more dense, consistent connectivity.
IoT has promised us a hyper-connected smart world, and the networks enabling it must be ready to deliver. Meeting these expectations has been a challenge for mobile carriers, but the telecom industry has aggressively worked to create ubiquitous connectivity in both heavily populated urban locations and rural areas where dead zones are commonplace. Telecom engineers continue to enhance network capabilities and create new ways with which IoT platforms can provide the best connectivity and enable IoT to deliver on its promise.
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