GSMA Issues Carrier-Backed IoT Guidelines

The GSM Association has weighed in on the Internet of Things (IoT) standards discussion with new guidelines aimed at protecting mobile networks from being disrupted by potentially billions of devices expected to comprise the IoT.

The goal of the guidelines is to address issues of traffic management and security to avoid disrupting network operations, according to the GSM Association (GSMA) . The guidelines are focused at providers of IoT services and developers of applications, and address issues such as managing signaling traffic, cell congestion, capacity and performance problems on the core mobile network, and quality degradation for both IoT endpoints and other mobile devices on the networks.

"We want to get the communications modules vendors to make their modules more intelligent," says Ian Smith, Technical Project Manager, GSMA. "The first thing is to make sure services are more efficient, so that we can get as many devices connected as possible without overloading the networks. But ultimately, operators want to be able to help with device management, security and all these value-adds. If we can offer a common set of services, that's a value-add for the operator."

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The GSMA's views are significant because of its representation of mobile operators globally, and the fact that the specific role those operators and their networks will play in the IoT ecosystem is still relatively unclear. The association says the report has the backing of a broad swath of operators, including AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL), China Telecom Corp. Ltd. (NYSE: CHA), Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), Etisalat , KT Corp. , Orange (NYSE: FTE), NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), Tata Teleservices Ltd. , Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), Telenor Connexion and VimpelCom Ltd. (NYSE: VIP).

While the GSMA's guidelines certainly address important network-specific issues about the IoT, they don't go so far as to better define the ultimate and potentially broader role of mobile network operators in the overall IoT ecosystem -- particularly as it pertains to revenue enhancement or their direct involvement in application creation and delivery. But Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Steve Bell says the guidelines are necessary because of the potentially massive proliferation of devices the realization of the IoT is expected to produce, and the havoc that could wreak on mobile networks.

"If you have 60 billion devices, the probability of something going wrong and causing a problem on the network is a much bigger issue than if you have 6 billion phones," Bell says. "It's a security issue and a network integrity issue. They're trying to say that there has to be a mechanism for approval that allows a device onto the network."

As for how the GSMA affects the ongoing development of IoT standards and protocols by other industry groups, the organization views its focus on the connectivity layer as unique, but also harmonious.

"What we've delivered is compatible with what's going on in the standards bodies, and what we've prepared is something that can be implemented very quickly," Smith says.

— Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, Light Reading

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