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Machine-to-Machine (M2M) for Mobile Operators: Lessons from the Market

Machine-to-Machine (M2M) technology and solutions are helping to create an “internet of things” that will drive productivity and improve lives - for consumers and businesses.  At the heart of this internet of things is an intelligent IP network that enables harmonious collaboration of devices in ways that appear seamless to the user.

Mobile operators in particular are looking at the explosively growing M2M market as a major source of new services revenue. ABI research predicts that the mobile M2M market is set for explosive growth, from approximately 71 million connections in 2009 to 225 million connections globally by 2014. This growth in mobile connectivity to machines ranging from vending machines to automobiles is being driven by a number of factors including, according to ABI research:

  • Telematics (i.e., convergence of telecommunications and information processing) and telemetry (i.e., remote measurement and reporting of information) are seen increasingly across many vertical industries as sources of greater operational efficiency and increased incremental revenue.
  • M2M applications are benefiting from the R&D and the scale of the mobile handset industry
  • Technical advances in air interface standards are enabling new 3G M2M market segments.
  • Government mandates are increasingly requiring the use of telematics and telemetry functionality
  • Mobile network operators (MNOs) are seeking to expand their data service offerings into M2M

Challenges for Mobile Operators

The M2M Market presents some unique technical and business requirements for Mobile Operators. The most obvious technical challenge is being able to provide connectivity to potentially many millions of virtually any kind of device. Additionally, while many M2M end devices transmit only limited traffic and thus do not require high throughput or a 3G connection, other devices have the potential to scale up bandwidth requirements significantly, for example, streaming of video from surveillance devices upon detection of a security event. The looming shortage of public IPv4 addresses is also a potential constraint, with some operators postponing commercial M2M service launches because they need to preserve their IP address allocations to satisfy the continued high growth in the number of mobile broadband subscribers.

Operators also need to adopt aggressive new business models to exploit the M2M opportunity. Average Revenue per User (ARPU) for connected M2M devices is much lower compared to mobile broadband subscribers. This can be problematic for operators where an industry indicator of overall financial health is the growth or decline in overall ARPUs. Of course, the number of potentially connected M2M devices is expected to dwarf the number of mobile broadband subscribers. M2M also brings with it specific customer support requirements, often including expertise that operators may not have in key M2M applications such as automatic telematics, transportation fleet management, security and public safety, remote healthcare monitoring, and remote automation for energy and utilities. Lastly, M2M brings with it transnational competitors operators, all seeking to service their enterprise customers with an integrated, global connectivity solution.

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Introducing the Network Test Automation Forum (NTAF)

Contributed by Kaushal Agrawal, Sr. Director of Engineering at Cisco
Founding board member of NTA Forum

Network Test Automation Forum (NTAF)As we become more dependent on IP networks to make VoIP phone calls, find information, and run our businesses we usually forget what is required to ensure that a new service operates correctly. Building robust networks requires operators to spend a lot of time and test resources to validate service performance, especially since new service offerings are growing more complex. What is lacking today is a methodical, industry-wide approach to testing to promote the interoperability, standardization, and automation of test infrastructure. To address this matter, a new forum, the Network Test Automation Forum (NTAF) has formed to bring together test equipment vendors, service providers, and network equipment manufacturers.

Cisco is already trying to minimize Service Provider risk and deployment times with the availability of Cisco certified solutions, such as our IP NGN Carrier Ethernet design. It was an easy decision for us to jump at the opportunity to be a founding member of the NTAF. NTAF will help bring the right level of standardization to achieve common interoperability goals. In a complex test environment, interoperability becomes the key differentiator for service providers when improving time to market of their deliverables. As an innovator in network equipment manufacturing and with our experience with service providers such as Verizon and BT, and key test equipment vendors such as Ixia and Spirent, Cisco is well positioned to address the challenges the NTAF aims to solve.

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Cisco’s Long Tradition of Routing & Switching Innovation

Cisco CRS-3: Foundation for the Next-Generation Internet

The Cisco name has long been synonymous with attaining the highest degree of proven expertise in the realm of Routing and Switching technology. From quite literally the first router to the 7200 and 12000 to the more recent ASR 1000 and ASR 9000 platforms, Cisco focused on and delivered ground-breaking innovation. And I believe we did it again this week with the introduction of the CRS-3 – what we believe will be the foundation of the Next-Generation Internet.

In Anticipation of Forecast Demand
When you set out to find a lasting solution to service provider’s core networking needs, you have to envision what the requirements will likely be in the foreseeable future. You must look beyond the short-term benefits of incremental enhancements.

Already, there’s an explosive growth of all types of IP traffic. Plus, the fundamental mix of traffic is changing – dramatically. Ninety percent of all consumer traffic, which in itself is about 74% of total traffic, is going to be some form of video. Mobile traffic will see a 6500% growth by 2013. Then there’s the traffic generated from the evolution of the new IT model of cloud computing -- that market will witness a 300% growth by 2013.

The networking infrastructure solution to these daunting growth forecasts requires a platform architecture that delivers capacity, precisely where it’s needed most, in full anticipation of the inevitable groundswell of traffic.

That architecture needs to scale to meet the accelerating bandwidth requirements, possess service intelligence to make network and data center/cloud work as one, and provide the SP with the ability to meet these objectives with reasonable CapEx and OpEx -- making this growth financially viable.

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Cisco CRS-3: Foundation for the Next Generation Internet

The public Internet has dramatically evolved since its inception. Likewise, so has the upward limit of expectations for IP Next Generation Network (IP NGN) infrastructure to power it.

When the Internet was founded in the 1960′s, its designers were focused on building a robust, fault-tolerant and distributed computer network for the military, scientists and research institutes. Even in their sci-fi dreams, they likely didn’t think of TelePresence or iPhones or seemingly infinite amounts of video running over the network…but that’s just what happened. Now, even the notion of looking at the Internet as a key for basic communications, such as email, is antiquated in favor of rich media applications for our Connected Lives (…and to think that the email and basic web-centric view was just over 10 years ago). I can still quite easily recall being excited over a 56.6 modem and thinking it was blazing fast, and I’m not that old! (No comments from the gallery on my age, please!)

While the use of the network has changed dramatically, so too must the technology and architecture used to support it.

One thing that hasn’t changed throughout these changes though is Cisco’s perspective that Service Providers are instrumental in making these new experiences happen. At Cisco, we want to develop new technology that enables these providers to deliver the services that power economies, promote creativity, and fundamentally change how we are able to work, live, learn and play…and to that end, I’m pleased to announce that once again, we are doing just that.

Imaginable: Planning for New Experiences
Today, the service provider’s ability to deliver more of the branded, rich, integrated experiences -- rather than just basic access -- will be essential in their transformation from service providers to experience providers.

The key to this transformation involves building the capabilities to deliver applications and services on a robust infrastructure designed in anticipation of the future -- knowing that it’s somewhat unpredictable.

The limitation, however, with the networks today is that they are designed to scale only in the predictable core to subscriber direction, and not in the data center to data center direction.

Therefore, merely increasing network platform component-level capacity would be short-sighted because the shift in traffic patterns also dictates the requirement for an architectural solution.

Introducing the Cisco CRS-3: Unmatched Scalability & Supporting Multi-Directional Patterns
Cisco’s answer to this challenge comes in the form of the CRS-3, our new flagship platform and quite simply, the industry’s most powerful, most capable, and more efficient core router ever created.

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Cisco’s Exponential Marketing in Action

More than a decade ago, the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto outlined the trends that were reshaping the process of marketing communications. And, as we approach the South-by-Southwest interactive festival (SXSW) here in my hometown, the great city of Austin, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how amazing it is that people are now “voting” with their tweets, blogs and communities -- refusing to accept communications-as-usual.

As a result, the way we produce and propagate content that we’ve created, and how we communicate our point of view, has clearly evolved since that time.

While we still have quite a bit to learn, we have made progress. Based upon the feedback that we received, we applied more listening, interacting, learning, and adapting to our current methodology. We’ve found ways to share our “human voice” via the SP360 blog, and the various other new media channels at our disposal.

Like many forward-looking companies, we have embraced the tools of social media to aid us in reaching out to our numerous stakeholder groups within our customers, and the other “communities of interest” that we actively seek to engage in a dialogue.

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