WiFi, Cellular, SigFox, LoRa, LPWAN, NB-IoT, satellite, Bluetooth, RFID, NFC… there’s a whole motley crew to choose from when it comes to IoT connectivity. And, unfortunately, with a mixed bag of capabilities when it comes to bandwidth, power consumption, coverage, and security, there’s no perfect one-size-fits-all connectivity option (yet). And with an ever-increasing influx in tech and connectivity developments adding to the mix, deciding where to invest all that hard earned cash can make or break a project.
So, how do you determine the right level of connectivity for your customers? Here are a few of the key factors to keep in mind.
Weighing up the requirements
With the trade-off between bandwidth, latency, range, power consumption, reliability, and even budget, the dialogue between reseller and user has never been more crucial. Breaking down what’s really needed when it comes to requirements and matching them to connectivity capabilities will not only identify the best fit connectivity, but help the project run smoothly and keep expenses low.
In the business world, communication mediums are getting richer and richer, with HD Video conferencing and screen sharing now just as commonplace as dialling into a conference bridge. Besides communications, applications are also more content rich. Creating all that content and and pushing it up to the cloud or simply via peer-to-peer networking, is now just as important as consuming information. Furthermore, uptime is critical and outages can be catastrophic. In these scenarios, high bandwidth, low latency, and a good level of reliability are as important as ever. A connectivity solution here therefore might revolve around deploying cellular services alongside fixed services, combining the properties of each to fill out the requirements of speed and bandwidth with an extra layer of resilience.
On the flip side, sensor based IoT solutions often have a different batch of requirements to pair with a connectivity type. For instance, when tracking a shipping container you’re likely to be dealing with small amounts of data over a long period of time from a number of different locations. Your connectivity of choice therefore won’t need high bandwidth, but it will need good coverage and low power consumption.
Getting to Gigabit
Next it’s time to consider Gigabit levels of connectivity. While a gigabit per second is not required right now except for large offices or media intensive sites, it should still be a de-facto starting point when getting connectivity right for business users. A HD video stream is around 5Mbps, and a UHD, 4K stream is around 25Mbps, depending on the codec. However, new fixed line deployments should be delivered with gigabit capable NTE devices for the customers end site, to allow and easy upgrade path by simply turning up the bandwidth on the circuit via software configuration.
Consider alternatives to fixed line connections
This is a good time to mention that the fixed line market is changing. ADSL with its limited upload speed is slowly being pushed out of the market, due to the bi-directional nature of information creation and consumption. It’s no longer effective to have a large downstream pipe and a small upstream pipe. Even in cases where FTTC is available, limitations are still present in the form of geographical proximity to the exchange or the street cabinet. Using 4G enabled connectivity with its greater bandwidth capability for upstream as well as downstream, combined with pricing converging towards traditional xDSL services, is now a viable and preferential alternative.
Choosing an IoT connectivity partner
Finally, within the framework of connectivity capabilities comes the choice of who’s going to provide the service, and there are several key factors to consider when choosing a connectivity partner. Is the underlying network resilient in the event of an outage? And just in case there is an outage make sure first and second line support are up to scratch. Check SLAs to ensure faults, especially single service faults—can be resolved in a timely manner. Finally it’s always worth ensuring there’s capacity planning in place to accommodate subscriber growth.
Preparing for 5G
The communications industry is also on the cusp of a new era in wireless connectivity, set to disrupt business connectivity—namely 5G.
Once taken to market and available to the Channel, 5G will build on what 4G connectivity has done to ADSL and FTTC, and become a viable and preferred alternative to 4G, ADSL, FTTC and upwards, such as FTTP and Ethernet.
This is built around the 5G goals of lower latency than ever, plus bandwidth in the hundreds of megabits to gigabit speeds. As well as pure speed, 5G also brings many advantages to the IoT ecosystem with services such as peer-to-peer communications for the automotive industry, and ultra reliable low latency communications which initiate the move away from traditional fixed line where the “five-nines uptime” was a mainstay, and one of the last reasons one would choose a fixed line service.
It’s therefore worth checking that your connectivity partner is equipped to utilise and resell 5G services in order to ensure your roadmap to next-generation IoT connectivity is a sure one.
Want to know more about your choices for IoT connectivity or get help setting up your own roadmap? Contact us using firstname.lastname@example.org