Why network inventory matters for IoT traffic on your network

18 November 2020

Why network inventory matters for IoT traffic on your network

IoT traffic is set to rise as part of general growth in data volumes but so too is the number of connected things. For any kind of operator, this is an opportunity – but you need to make sure that you have a flexible, agile OSS to support IoT solutions – as well as a BSS to support new business models and partnerships. The inventory – offering a single source of truth – is the bridge to enable efficient management of new IoT opportunities.

IoT will affect both wireless and wireline networks

Many of today’s networks are being built in anticipation of a massive increase in the number of connected devices. This is required in order to support the surging growth of the “internet of things” or IoT – both in terms of increased data traffic and in terms of the number of devices. This spans a host of solutions and segment areas. For example, the connected home and consumer wearables, as well as more demanding industrial and smart city applications. Some of these will be connected via existing network interfaces, while some (and indeed, many that are expected as part of the coming growth) will depend on 5G.

There are two reasons for this. First, the sheer number of such devices (we don’t need to go into more detail of the applications at this point) demands wireless capacity that can only be provided by new spectrum used by 5G. Second, the capabilities required (low latency, for example) by some applications require performance characteristics that can be delivered by 5G – but not by other wireless access media.

The bottom line is that there will be millions of such devices – even within a relatively small footprint area. Now, some of these will be delivered and managed by telecoms operators, many will be delivered by key business partners (e.g. smart meters), while some will exist entirely independently of the network (e.g. smart watches). Either way, operators face a massively expanded asset base – a great deal of which will fall within the scope of their management systems.

In other words, the inventory base that operators must manage is about to grow – dramatically so. In addition to taking into account the traditional CPE equipment (edge routers, set top boxes, broadband access modems, base stations, mobile SIMs), and the routes by which these connect to the network (fiber paths, DSL links, backhaul and so on), plus all the other equipment, telecoms operators will have to content with potentially millions of new devices in their existing networks, as well as new access paths by which these are connected to the core and edge assets.

In addition to this, there will also be different services to contend with. Many IoT services will have highly specific and differentiated QoS (Quality of Service) requirements, which means that operators will have many more SLA-backed services to support and to provision. Before they activate such a service (dynamically, in the case of services supported over the new 5G core), they must be sure that they have the resources in place to deliver.

IoT is coming to your network – can your OSS cope?

All of this is coming. It doesn’t matter whether you are an operator that provides direct connectivity (user / premises) based services, or offer backhaul solutions, or wholesale. The extent and reach of your network – and the partner assets that you will encounter (e.g. the smart meters that send data over your network and which you may have to manage, or the base stations to which your fiber provides high-capacity connectivity from the street or building on which they are situated) – will grow, dramatically. Of course, some networks are already dedicated to IoT, but for many others, IoT is just another kind of data that must be managed alongside other sources of traffic – but one that has a host of new business models, partnerships, SLAs and delivery models.

So, now’s the time to consider the impact of this transformation on your OSS. Operational systems will have to cope with new forms of connected things, while also enabling differentiated service and SLA agreements. The network will get denser but also more complicated, as multiple different services will be delivered and operated in parallel, across the different forms of connectivity offered.

And, business support systems will also require extension, to cater for new business models, new monetization opportunities and the onboarding of new partners. That’s a lot to ask. There’s simply no way that operators can support this increase in asset base and broadening of business models and processes without clarity. To achieve this, operators will need that clarity in terms of a single, comprehensive inventory solution that can provide a consistent, accurate data set for all associated OSS and BSS processes, their associated resources, assets and components. As new processes are introduced and as new agile ways of managing service are also introduced, they will depend on this inventory for dynamic operation and performance.

Get ready for IoT now with effective inventory management

So, even if you are not currently thinking about IoT traffic and how it impacts your network, you should be. Wherever you sit in the value chain, IoT traffic will traverse your network, in one way or another. It’s yet another set of services that generate significant traffic volumes and may well exceed your classical voice and data traffic flows. It can bring you new opportunities and new partnerships.

As a result, you have to be ready to adapt – and that means taking a long hard look at your OSS and working out how you can ensure seamless service performance and activation, alongside seamless network operations. Agile, dynamic inventory management is essential for this transition and the inventory platform is the link between your OSS and BSS that will enable you to embrace the IoT – from whichever angle you approach it.

In CROSS Network Intelligence, we’ve already experienced this transition, with the extension of our inventory solutions to embrace new devices, such as the smart meters we mentioned earlier. They represent a simple example of how inventory management must adapt. That’s because they are a general requirement in many European countries, so many utility companies are partnering with operators to deliver both the devices and the connectivity. If there’s one per household, that’s a lot of new devices – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As such, we’ve seen new demands placed on our CROSS inventory solution, which is already adapted to cope with new IoT services, dynamic resource allocation, agile provisioning, and assurance.

Without wishing to push a metaphor too far, the IoT iceberg isn’t far off. The question is, will you be able to navigate it safely, or will it become a headache for you? You need to prepare now and ensure you have the single source of data your OSS and BSS systems will need – before you are overwhelmed. If you want to understand how your inventory can adapt, why not book a review with our team?