If operators haven't yet determined a business case to deploy SDN and NFV in their networks, they may find one in the billions of small sensors that are already starting to make their way onto their networks.
According to Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Steve Bell, the Internet of Things (IoT) is driving the business case for SDN and NFV. "You won't be able to manage billions of devices generating trickles of data that aggregate into a tsunami of data unless you have elasticity and flexibility in the network," he says.
The data tsunami isn't there yet, Bell adds, but it's certainly in the forecast. With SDN and NFV in place, operators will be better able to control their networks effectively and adapt their billing systems to account for many connections and multiple parties along the value chain.
While operators are starting to deploy NFV and SDN now, many are waiting for LTE-M before diving into IoT. LTE-M is a 4G spec developed for machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity that's low power, low cost and run on licensed spectrum. It is expected to be deployed by Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and others next year. (See Huawei Promises 4.5G & LTE-M in 2016.)
Many are also considering a nearer-term solution: partnering with a company like Sigfox , which operates a Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) network for IoT that is also low power and cost effective, but run on unlicensed spectrum. It's interesting that both LTE-M and LPWA are evolving alongside 5G, for which IoT is thought to be a catalyst. (See You Can't Spell 5G Without LTE and Sigfox Plans Global IoT Network.)
"As the industry moves to 5G, you have two competing sets of requirements -- long range, low power, high latency and then you have a very high value, high volume, low latency requirement on the other hand," Bell says. "How the network is going to be able to have elasticity to deal with different use cases is a challenge, which is why LPWA is interesting."
It is still early days for LPWA and, as a recent Light Reading poll indicated, the industry is split on whether operators need to deploy it within the year or if they can wait for LTE-M to serve the same purpose in licensed spectrum. Bell says the next two years will be paramount for understanding whether the industry can embrace LTE and M2M and the requirements for low power, low energy consumption. (See LPWA: A Threat to 'Wait & See' IoT Operators? and IoT Tech Options.)
These will be among the topics up for discussion at the Big Telecom Event here in less than two weeks. Bell will be moderating two panels on IoT and M2M, "IoT: Prepping Your Network for IoT" and "IoT: Partnering and the Role of Telecom in Smart Cities/Smart Utilities," at the show. Be sure to register and join us for more!
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading