As the telecommunications industry moves towards 5G, one of the key business drivers will be Internet of Things (IoT). From the simple use cases of home appliance management, to more widespread smart cities, remote device control and even remote medical services, the possibilities are endless. Some estimates foresee the number of IoT devices to be as huge as 50 billion by the year 2020. There are use cases involving number of devices to the order of tens of billions, giving rise to term Massive IoT (MIoT).
Typically, IoT device communication involves small data (e.g. messages), however with more complex use cases, there is a need to support video and data based communication while maintaining ultra-low delay and high reliability. Current standards based on short messaging service (SMS) or even IP Multimedia Systems (IMS) aren’t going to cut it. What is needed is a light weight protocol, with high emphasis on security and access control, while providing the best in terms of reliability.
The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) – a union of seven telecommunications standard development organizations, is proposing a new 5GMSG standard to meet the demands of MIoT communication and charging. The 5G IOT use cases will require both person-to-thing and thing-to-thing communication. With high density of devices, and infrastructure cost concerns, maintaining a low signaling overhead is critical. MNOs need to be extra sensitive to access control and security concerns. The technology needs to support a variety of protocols used by different device types e.g. iPhone versus Android or watch versus baby monitor versus shared bike, while the business use cases need to account for multitude of new scenarios such as, mobility, remote user authentication, broadcast messages e.g. intrusion detection by smart video camera. Storage support will be needed to maintain/upload data or if a connected device is unavailable.
Service providers will need to adapt the business model to meet the demands of MIoT industry. The services may use a flat-rate charge, charge per message, charge by events (e.g. device triggers, connect, add user etc.), charge by data (e.g. send/upload video) or a combination of different charging models based on subscription type and IoT topology. There could well be value based pricing models as well as SLA management for mission critical IoT devices (e.g. heart monitor). There may be shared ownership of resources e.g. family, student groups etc., a single-consumer ownership or a limited-time ownership e.g. renting a shared bike. Enterprise IoT may evolve as a separate, huge revenue stream. As MIoT suggests, the ability to develop and implement many different charging models and being able to spin up and down new offers very quickly is vital. But in order for service providers to be able to best monetise the MIoT opportunity that 5G will provide, questions need to be asked if their legacy charging and billing systems are up to the job. These systems were developed to rate and bill circuit switched voice calls and text messages. Most have made it through 3G and are only able to barely deal with 4G use cases by having plethora of expensive custom developments implemented. Will they deliver the level of agility and speed at the cost model needed to take advantage of this new opportunity? I don’t think so. Maybe it’s time to change the game.