The Benefits and Challenges of IoT for Telecommunications Networks

By Tom Fong, Eric Muise and Paul Stevens of Advantech

Telecommunications is an essential part of our daily lives. Now more than ever, we are relying on telecommunications to connect and conduct business, stay productive, and remain linked to our loved ones and social lives. The integrated voice, audio, video and data architecture of today’s telecom is how we work, play, shop, socialize and live. While some of these systems are tried and true and others are emerging technologies, there’s no doubt that IoT for telecommunications has reshaped the technology landscape, revealing both benefits and challenges.

Reshaping the Telecom Landscape

IoT has tremendous ability to improve our daily lives by making many of the objects around us smart, connected and able to communicate with each other. For businesses, IoT offers the potential to make organizations more agile and efficient in a broad range of use cases, including factory automation, smart cities and telehealth to name a few. These pave the way for a new and disruptive communications network built around 5G to serve specific industry requirements. With 5G, the telecommunications industry is building a new network that enables the next generation of IoT applications across multiple verticals by bringing groundbreaking new technologies into play.

Benefits

Telecom is already having a profound effect on our lives, and the impacts will only grow more immense. The COVID-19 pandemic has isolated the global population from their workgroups and companies as well as from friends and family. As the world stays home to limit human interaction and ensure we can all stay healthy and protect our wellbeing, it is clear that telecom is not only necessary but vital in this new reality. With a less mobile population, the demand for video conferencing, streaming and cloud services has soared, and infrastructure capacity is being tested.

IoT applications for telecommunications are improving connection and efficiency in a variety of ways. Right now, the healthcare industry is relying on telehealth to remotely care for patients, businesses are adapting to online collaboration, families are using video conferencing to connect, and society as a whole is moving toward a smart environment. None of this would be possible without IoT-connected applications.

Challenges

That being said, IoT telecommunications networks still face challenges. The demand for massive broadband that can deliver gigabytes of bandwidth has jumped overnight. As we move away from the pandemic and look to the future, there’s a need for critical machine-type communication that provides low-latency, quasi-immediate feedback with high reliability for applications such as virtual reality, remote control over drones, telerobotics, telepresence, teleoperation and autonomous driving. The industry will also need massive machine-type communication that connects billions of sensor end-points.

IoT security is also a challenge for telecom networks. As connected devices are engines for data collection, they become high-value targets for malicious behavior. These devices can be connected and configured to send data over networks to cloud applications, making the digital risk to data ever present. Industry analysts at Ericsson estimate that there will be 3.5 billion cellular-based IoT devices connected by 2023, adding an urgency to secure this type of network. The benefits of IoT are undeniable for organizations, so access and trust are essential to realizing their full potential with all points in the digital ecosystem able to prevent vulnerabilities.

Advantech’s Solutions

Advantech’s Network Functions Virtualization Infrastructure (NFVI) and universal Customer-Premises Equipment (uCPE) platforms are designed to provide the range of innovative services needed by providers to transform their networks using new disaggregated models, which separate hardware and software and remove vendor lock-in. Platforms for uCPE and NFVI extend the cloud to the enterprise and service provider edge where technologies such as SD-WAN, IoT and virtual RAN enable a converged edge architecture securely connecting people and things. The Advantech Cloud-IoT Group is poised to deliver solutions that are central to this transformation, including:

SKY-8000 server portfolio – Designed to accelerate next generation telecom network rollouts, servers integrating an Intel® architecture provide an agnostic NFVI that delivers hardware-software decoupling, full provisioning flexibility and excellent scalability – all key to meeting system requirements at the virtual edge.

SKY-7000 and SKY-8000 – These products offer a complete cloud experience and development toolset. Key system requirements such as end-to-end security features and a user-defined access pathway are specified to ensure security and privacy of data and AI models.

FWA series – This flexible white-box uCPE product range offers a solid foundation for deploying SD-WAN and additional virtual network functions from select industry partners in enterprise and converged edge solutions.

IoT Private Cloud – Standardized, on-premise cloud configurations based on a SKY Server stack satisfy large computation and high availability needs.

Private LTE and distributed edge cloud – This SKY-8000 solution offers a solid base for edge implementations in a compact package. It includes software from key partners, enabling a self-contained virtual RAN and a virtual EPC.

The Future of IoT Telecommunications Networking

Since the connectivity layer of IoT comes from service providers, they are uniquely positioned to be the main source for IoT solutions. Today, telecoms are already deploying IoT solutions such as fleet management and smart city solutions. The future is moving towards machine learning with real-time behavior and sensors that offer opportunity to suggest highly relevant new services to their existing customer base and use analytical insights to increase customer retention. These services can have a profound impact on all businesses, preventing downtime and improving the customer experience. As traditional voice and data services shrink, telecom is evolving to create new revenue streams through IoT products and services.

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