Is the Internet of Things the next over-the-top?

The Internet of Things is revolutionizing the network, butthe ability to support far greater capacity, under the auspices of broader architectural changes, will need to evolve to make the revolution a reality.

By Ronan Kelly May 18, 2016

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a revolution used the world over when speaking about the vanishing point for IP expansion. It was started by a vending machine engineered by Advanced Research Project Agency Network (ARPANET) experts, and now this revolution is evolving with hyper-connected applications for every facet of life across every vertical industry.

The IoT is a force to be reckoned with, but the question, as it is with all revolutions: what exactly is it revolutionizing?

The network. Although, as far as network-wide transformations go, we’ve already seen a similar revolution in the arrival of the over-the-top (OTT) service provider; a cocktail of innovated service, the widespread popularity of smart devices, and widespread available broadband.

Are network operators ready for the IoT?

Without mentioning the hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue losses brought around by the arrival of OTT services, operators had the unenviable task of investing to support the associated consumption of network resources. OTT poster boys like WhatsApp and Netflix have had a massive impact on how the largest operators plan for increasingly unpredictable network demands. If these operators have navigated the OTT storm, they should have the right tools in place to contend with the IoT.

4G and LTE access services are already placing many networks under considerable strain and exhausting available capacity. More subscribers are using more devices, and 5G should be arriving by the beginning of the next decade. Add IoT traffic into the mix, and the problem is exacerbated. The ability to support far greater capacity, under the auspices of broader architectural changes, will need to evolve in step with these requirements.

Like OTT before it, the mobile access network will not be the only area affected by the IoT. Whether the "thing" is hardwired, dependent upon a cellular or satellite network for its connectivity, or harnesses short-range wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and ANT+ for a machine-to-machine interface, the extra loads heaped upon the backhaul network are the same. Capacity is under pressure, and service quality is at risk as a result.

Many predict that realized, ratified 5G standards are set to arrive by the early 2020s. While this may seem like a long way off, it would be prudent of operators to begin planning for it now, if they’re not already.

2020 looks to be a pivotal year: the US government and European Commission, amongst others, are targeting this arbitrary line in the sand as a deadline date for ubiquitous super-fast broadband services. This is putting more pressure on existing broadband networks to cope and for new optical infrastructures to be created.  The clock is certainly ticking.

By the year 2020, 50 billion things will be connected to the Internet, which is five times more than today. While that sounds a gargantuan scale, it’s still a mere drop in the ocean. An amazing 99.7% of the connectable things that exist globally would still be unplugged.

It would appear the IoT is not such a revolution after all. Not yet, at least.

Ronan Kelly is chief technology officer (CTO) of EMEA and APAC at Adtran. This article originally appeared at Internet of Business. Internet of Business is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media,

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