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

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 signaling 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 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’

Larger volumes of data transfer and consumption mean that the strain on the network is being felt at various levels, and critical, evolved signaling 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 signaling 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.

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 signaling 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. A weak SCTP can lead to many issues for analytics including data delivery and poor performance metrics.
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.

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 signaling 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 signaling deficiencies in the network, there is a high risk that service providers will miss these essential opportunities to accurately bill users accordingly.

 Securing the next generation network

To overcome the challenges of an ageing signaling 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 signaling 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.

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