Future demand for mobile spectrum – the impact of embedded mobility

This study assesses the likely future requirement for cellular mobile spectrum, the extent to which this is likely to exceed supply, and the contribution which machine-to-machine cellular traffic might make to spectrum demand over the next 15 years.

The study models the cellular traffic for four mutually exclusive categories which attempt to capture all mobile traffic. The traffic categories are:

  • Person-to-person (P2P) real-time voice traffic
  • Person-to-person real-time video traffic
  • End user initiated mobile data involving person-to-machine (P2M) communication. This category includes Internet access of all kinds so long as this is initiated by a person rather than a machine. It also includes some traffic classified as embedded device traffic (devices with embedded SIMs)
  • Machine initiated machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. Most of this traffic will come from embedded devices.

The study argues that under some scenarios and in some countries there may be a shortfall in the supply of spectrum to meet projected mobile data traffic demand or to meet it in a cost effective way. On the other hand, the study indicates that machine-to-machine traffic will lead to little additional demand for cellular spectrum. However, machine-to-machine traffic is likely to generate three potentially challenging problems:

  • Over the next 15 years growth in machine-to-machine traffic could lead to a 100 fold increase in the volume of network signalling
  • Large numbers of machine based devices simultaneously connected to the network could lead to capacity problems as there is a limit to the number of active connections each base station can support.
  • The devices which use embedded cellular machine-to-machine communications often have long lifetimes, which could lead to problems when cellular network technologies are upgraded.