It should come as no surprise that city dwellers (and even most rural denizens) expect to have access to the Internet anywhere, at any time, with rapid service delivery and speed. Best practices for optimizing bandwidth and data services for consumers on-the-move is a common subject of discussion among service providers of all sizes. For the majority, the focus has remained on keeping user quality-of-experience (QoE) high for mobile phones and tablets, and optimizing any community WiFi hotspots where users can access the Internet on any device of their choosing.
But will providers be prepared for the influx of data consumption brought by a steadily increasing wearables market?
Whether you’re fitting on a smartwatch, a fitness tracker, a health monitoring device, or even a shiny new smart-shirt, the wearables market is showing continuous year-over-year growth. A recent report from Tractica shows the global wearable devices market will grow from 17 million device shipments in 2013 to 187 million units annually by 2020, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34%—a number that strikes me as a conservative estimate at best.
The challenge raised by the increasing number of wearables is not just an increase in bandwidth usage—savvy operators are already preparing for this as they contend with OTT content, IPTV, IoT, and other high-bandwidth applications—it’s the unpredictable nature of how and when wearable device bandwidth is used. Wearables are often connected out of the blue, and the types of services used by each subscriber varies significantly. Some subscribers may use a wearable to tell the time or check the weather, while others may use a wearable to stream songs, watch videos, or play online games. Some may connect to 4G/LTE networks, while others may leech off of public WiFi hotspots. Unfortunately for service providers, most subscribers rarely consider the implications of this randomized bandwidth usage. Subscribers just want their services to work.
Network operators must brace themselves to deal with these sudden surges of bandwidth in an increasingly unpredictable market. To do this, they need the ability to actively manage network congestion as it happens. Network and service performance indicators are a necessity. In addition, proactively optimizing specific network routing elements based on usage trends and geographic locations is essential to alleviating potential network stress. Many of the latest smart devices, especially in the e-textile industry, involve analyzing exercise routines. Therefore, knowing which network element services a local recreation center or community gym will come in handy when attempting to proactively deal with areas at risk for increased network congestion.
For providers to offer reliable, high-quality services to an ever-increasing amount of unpredictable subscriber devices, they need platforms that go beyond the routine network analytics offered by outdated data collection methods. Providers must capture and harness a multifaceted view of their entire network, digging deep into network hardware statistics, subscriber usage patterns, and even individual user habits. By enhancing insight to a state where the operator knows what types of applications and services each specific user within a service contract typically accesses, the unpredictable nature of the on-the-go devices market becomes much clearer.
The impetus for change has arrived. Market Report’s global Telecom Trends for 2016 indicates that wireless devices are set to overtake wired devices in terms of IP traffic, and will account for over 50% of Internet traffic. Wearables are but a small part of this traffic now, but will continue to grow this number to an even higher value in the coming years. Service providers of all sizes should be prepared. Are you?
(Stephane Bourque is CEO of Incognito Software Systems.)