Key assurance capabilities for meeting IoT SLAs in the 5G era

May 24, 2022

“By intelligently harnessing the huge amounts of data exchanged between billions of connected devices on a daily basis, the internet of everything (IoE) will give rise to a market of applications we haven’t even dreamed of yet.”  (TMForum

IoT (Internet of Things) or, more specifically, Mobile IoT (licensed spectrum in the Low Power Wide Area aka LPWA) is a high-growth area. It will play an essential role in connecting billions of new devices in business, industry, transportation, energy, agriculture, entertainment, etc. There are three standardized LPWA technologies in the licensed spectrum: EC-GSM-IoT, LTE-MTC (LTE-M), and NB-IoT. 

The impact will continue to grow every year. Already, 140 operators globally have deployed/launched NB-IoT, or LTE-M networks, and over 200 operators are actively investing in these technologies. By the end of 2022, there will be approximately 18 billion connected IoT devices and 75 billion by 2025. This growth explosion will cover multiple verticals such as connected and autonomous vehicles, connected or intelligent homes, agriculture, robotics, smart industry, smart cities, and intelligent energy. 

The accelerated roll-out of 5G is also expected to herald the proliferation of IoT, with most use cases falling into one of two categories: Massive IoT (MIoT) and Critical IoT (CIoT)

  • Massive IoT is driven by scale rather than speed. With 5G supporting a significantly higher number of devices in each area, enabling the connection of up to 1 million devices per square kilometer. The main goal of these applications is to transmit and consume small amounts of data from vast numbers of devices. 
  • Critical IoT requires extremely low latency and high uptime. For use cases like telemedicine, first responder applications, and factory automation. Typically, these applications require a constant, data-rich connection. 

This colossal rise of IoT in 5G is an excellent opportunity for operators to expand their offering beyond connectivity and drive growth with revenues generated from new and innovative IoT services. 

However, with opportunities, there are also challenges. In this case, the challenges come from the complexity and sheer scale of guaranteeing service connectivity, delivering on SLAs to enterprise customers and ensuring privacy and security, all while being ready for the future. 

The IoT assurance challenge 

Managing millions of IoT devices and meeting stringent SLAs is no simple task: 

  • There are many different IoT devices, each of which has its assurance requirements. 
  • The nature of IoT traffic can be sporadic and difficult to anticipate. 
  • IoT devices are highly prone to security attacks and require a new approach to protection. 
  • Operators need to be future-ready to accommodate advanced 5G technologies poised for mass adoption, such as network slicing that will provide dedicated IoT slices to serve different SLAs and network connectivity requirements.  

The many different types of devices  

There are many different types of IoT devices. Each of them delivers a wide range of services and has its own requirements. Some devices, for example, are mission-critical but send only short data bursts once a day. On the other hand, other devices that are not mission-critical need to stream HD video for a long time.  

This diversity, where devices that communicate sporadically need to be managed simultaneously with those that continuously send data, makes anticipating traffic volumes and assuring necessary coverage very difficult. 

The varying nature of IoT traffic 

The great variety of IoT devices poses an additional challenge. Namely, data from each type of device is generated in different patterns and with varying regularity. Moreover, the traffic on these IoT devices can transverse the network in multiple ways and across various protocols. 

This makes it challenging to analyze and understand what’s happening in the network in real-time. 

Security 

IoT devices don’t often come with adequate built-in security, there is a lack of standardization, and patches and updates are infrequent. This makes them particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks such as hacking, phishing, and more. 

When there are thousands of such devices connected to the enterprise network, the risk is even greater. When a cybercriminal can access just one device, they can tap into the entire network.  

Assuring security can be challenging. Identification and authentication of every single device are required to prevent unauthorized access. Moreover, access control must be provided to each IoT entity requiring a connection for creating a service, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

Future readiness: network slicing 

One of the keys to 5G monetization is expected to be network slicing, enabling operators to segment the network and deploy multiple logical networks for different service types over one common infrastructure. 

Network slicing is recognized as a beacon technology that will enable multi-service IoT networks. 

However, visualizing, monitoring, and assuring the quality of services delivered by each virtual slice that spans the RAN, edge, transport, and core, presents another significant challenge to operators. 

The critical capabilities for overcoming key challenges 

The good news is that there is something that operators can do to overcome the above-noted challenges. 

The key is to be able to: 

  • Track and correlate IoT traffic that goes through all the different possible paths across the network, including the SGW/PGW and SMSC. 
     
  • Automatically detect anomalies in connectivity and security based on how much data is being transmitted, how often, when, and any other customer defined KPI and KQI. 
     
  • Automatically generate alarms if a pre-defined baseline threshold per device is crossed. 
     
  • Access drill-down visibility into a specific device or location for pinpointing the root cause of network issues. 
     
  • Be future-ready with predictive and dynamic slice quality KPI monitoring and anomaly detection. 

Automated assurance solutions with built-in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) will be critical for monitoring these IoT services. By utilizing ML, assurance can define baseline behavior per device or device type and automatically generate alarms or trigger closed-loop automation if anomalies are detected, and a baseline threshold is breached. This can be used to monitor security and service connectivity. This automated anomaly detection is based on how much data is transmitted, how often and when, traffic destination, and data transmission frequency. 

Through the powerful combination of these capabilities, operators can gain insights into network and device performance issues and take corrective actions to meet even the toughest SLAs to ensure service connectivity and reliability to essential enterprise customers. 

How RADCOM can help 

RADCOM ACE, for automated, containerized, end-to-end assurance, with the RADCOM AIM AI module, helps operators attain the critical capabilities for overcoming the main challenges to effective and successful IoT assurance.  

RADCOM ACE is built to analyze IoT traffic in real-time and uses advanced AI-driven analytics to help you be proactive in monitoring your IoT services. It provides essential insights into how well your IoT services are running and allows you to detect anomalies before they significantly affect SLAs with enterprise customers. RADCOM ACE is THE IoT service assurance solution to ensure that you give your customers the best IoT performance possible. 

To learn more, download our latest IoT assurance brochure here. 

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