Fifty billion connected devices by the close of the decade – that was the prediction at Mobile World Congress from John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, and there was both agreement and caution from others who went on to speak about the “Internet of Things.”

I attended one conference specifically about the “50-Billionth Connected Device,” where the panelists talked about the spectrum of connected devices that would appear in the near future – some stationary, some mobile, some wearable, some attached to a product – and whether the capability and technology were present to actually get to that number. I asked the panelists what they thought the impact of those 50 billion connected devices would be on the signaling traffic in service provider networks. Just think of it: 50 billion devices that fall across a range of behaviors in both the way they connect and communicate with the mobile network and the way they send and receive data from an application perspective. I asked how service providers that are already struggling with increasing traffic loads in the RAN and mobile core should prepare for this onslaught. I got a range of responses.

One person acknowledged that service providers would definitely see an increase in the signaling traffic, and it should be a concern. Another indicated that the answer to the signaling challenges is in moving device control to the cloud, and introducing 5G and SDN to help address the issue. Another pointed out that the bulk of the devices, in his estimation, would only require the need to transmit a few kilobits a week, so what’s the big problem? 

His fellow panelist quickly stepped in, noting that, “Infinity times one is still infinity.” In other words, even though the application traffic volume is small, when it’s multiplied by 50 billion devices, that’s not only a lot of data plane traffic, but a large amount of control plane signaling traffic, as well. The panelist astutely indicated that there would be a need to manage these devices and control how they talk with, behave and get updates through the network. 

So what about the connected devices that will make up the future 50 billion? Most likely, many of them would be on-the-move to match our mobile lifestyle, so they would need to roam from network to network and communicate faithfully over the course of their lives, regardless of the access technology they would encounter.  That’s a tall order when mobile technology does not stand still and operators continue to optimize and make upgrades to their networks

Interworking and service orchestration, inherent in the BorderNet DSH, will be critical to support the Internet of Things – a mobile Internet of things – along with securing mobile networks against the onslaught of devices connecting across networks. 

How are you preparing for the 50 billion connected devices? Tell us about it at sales@dialogic.com .