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IoT & Smart Cities

IoT Jamming Mobile Networks in Africa

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IoT is already embedded in Africa’s industrial and commercial infrastructure for smart management of farming, water and electricity.

According to Vodafone's 2015 M2M Barometer Report, 35% of organisations in Africa now have M2M deployments in place, while IDC predicts significant potential for M2M growth across the African continent.

African businesses are in a unique position to leapfrog over interim technology and adopt IoT solutions more easily, because Africa doesn’t have the same extensive legacy applications and infrastructure as Western countries.

However, the increase in signaling traffic can strain mobile networks already pushed to the limit. In South Africa, Telkom's 4G LTE network is coming under congestion pressure, the company said, due to an 18.4% rise in mobile voice and subscriptions and a more than 70% increase in mobile data traffic.

IoT smart devices send and receive vast amounts of data. Signaling messages are used to determine the location of the device, its wake-up times, and who has authorized access. The increasingly large number of messages due to state changes on the radio spectrum can result in the inefficient use of resources, for example:

  • Push notifications can be sent to a large number of devices within a small time window, creating huge spikes in signaling and congestion on the radio spectrum.
  • Devices can send frequent "keep alive" messages just to ensure the network address translation (NAT) port remains open
  • Devices can ping the network every few minutes when unable to connect to the application server.

    When each of these inefficiencies is multiplied by thousands of devices the extra load on the network can have a negative impact on performance. One approach to reduce congestion, and enable operators to service more devices using the same network resources is to implement more intelligent signaling. Using this approach, inefficiencies with signaling can be eliminated by streamlining and orchestrating the data traffic to reduce the number of signaling messages related to state changes. The sending of unnecessary data control messages can be managed or delayed until there is a more opportune time for transmission.

    Signaling can be tweaked to improve network performance. For example, data control messages can be delayed, queued and then transmitted in batches and signaling messages can be balanced over time to prevent bursts.

    These optimisation techniques can reduce data signalling events by 5%-15%, reduce RF state changes and save battery life. By influencing traffic flows at the network core the increased efficiency is automatic and all signaling traffic is optimised. IoT will most likely continue to be used in Africa to better manage water and electricity consumption and to improve agricultural yields. As the number of rapidly-growing connected devices increases, African operators will need solutions that will enable them to connect more devices using the same infrastructure to keep down the costs of data transmissions. Intelligent signaling solutions can provide a cost effective solution that makes the most of the existing network resources, delaying the requirement to invest in more network capacity.

    About Ofer Gottfried:

    Ofer Gottfried, chief technology officer (CTO), leads Flash Networks' long-term technology vision, and is responsible for collaborative research with mobile operators, advanced technology solutions and thought leadership.

    If you are interested in finding out more about IoT and Smart Cities in an African context, why not attend Africa's biggest tech and telco event – AfricaCom?

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