Friday, 12 February 2010

A quick Introduction to M2M Communications

Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications is a healthy sector that' s expanding rapidly and generating significant revenues for mobile network operators (MNOs). Devices outnumber subscribers by an order of magnitude, but the term doesn' t do justice to the concept and the market it represents.

The following is from 3G Americas report on 3GPP standards and their evolution to 4G:

By leveraging connectivity, Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication would enable machines to communicate directly with one another. In so doing, M2M communication has the potential to radically change the world around us and the way that we interact with machines.

In Rel-10, 3GPP is in the process of establishing requirements for 3GPP network system improvements that support Machine-Type Communications (MTC). The objective of this study is to identify 3GPP network enhancements required to support a large number of MTC devices in the network and to provide necessary network enablers for MTC communication service. Specifically, transport services for MTC as provided by the 3GPP system and the related optimizations are being considered as well as aspects needed to ensure that MTC devices and/or MTC servers and/or MTC applications do not cause network congestion or system overload. It is also important to enable network operators to offer MTC services at a low cost level, to match the expectations of mass market machine-type services and applications.

The 3GPP study on M2M communications has shown potential for M2M services beyond the current "premium M2M market segment." The example of applications for mass M2M services include machine type communications in smart power grid, smart metering, consumer products, health care, and so forth. The current mobile networks are optimally designed for Human-to-Human communications, but are less optimal for M2M applications.

A study item on M2M communications (3GPP TR 22.868) was completed in 2007; however, no subsequent normative specification has been published. For Rel-10 and beyond, 3GPP intends to take the results on network improvements from the study item forward into a specification phase and address the architectural impacts and security aspects to support MTC scenarios and applications. As such, 3GPP has defined a work item on Network Improvements for Machine-Type Communication (NIMTC). The following goals and objectives are described in the work item:

The goal of this work item is to:
• Provide network operators with lower operational costs when offering machine-type communication services
• Reduce the impact and effort of handling large machine-type communication groups
• Optimize network operations to minimize impact on device battery power usage
• Stimulate new machine-type communication applications by enabling operators to offer services tailored to machine-type communication requirements

The objectives of this work item include:
• Identify and specify general requirements for machine-type communications
• Identify service aspects where network improvements (compared to the current H2H oriented services) are needed to cater for the specific nature of machine-type communications
• Specify machine-type communication requirements for these service aspects where network improvements are needed for machine-type communication
• Address system architecture impacts to support machine-type communication scenarios and applications

A RAN study item to investigate the air interface enhancements for the benefit of M2M communication has also been recently approved. The study will be initiated in early 2010.

Further Reading:

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