Connected cars could cause mobile traffic jams

Published: May 22, 2015

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Callum Micucci



An independent research organization in the UK says connected cars could overload mobile networks in the near future.

The report, from Machina Research, says that over the next ten years, certain areas of mobile networks are expected to see a 97 per cent increase in data traffic as connected cars become more common.

“Connected cars, as with other M2M devices, don’t behave like smartphones,” said Matt Hatton, the founder and CEO of Machina. “They represent a very diverse set of challenges to operators through highly varying network traffic patterns at different times of the day.”

The company estimates that by 2024, mobile networks will see a rise in machine-to-machine (M2M) connections to 2.3 billion worldwide from 250 million. While mobile network operators are preparing for this, connected cars have a much different demand on the network than tablets and smartphones.

“In terms of overall data volumes, connected cars don’t present much of a problem,” Hatton said. “But network resource management is not based on total traffic volume, it’s based on particular cell sites during peak times of network use.”

“If connected cars regularly cause network traffic spikes in a particular location that can’t be met, there are implications for operators in meeting service-level agreements (SLAs) and delivering a positive quality of experience,” Hatton said.

The Machina report outlined a number of recommendations in order to cope with the predicted increase in traffic, including more sophisticated planning, greater diversity in access networks, an increased focus on decide management, and a more considered approach to spectrum re-farming.

“The connected car is just one of many M2M use cases that will put new and unusual demands on network usage that mobile operators will need to resolve,” said Steve Bowker, VP Technology and Strategy, TEOCO.

“In all cases, operators will need to identify where and when the network traffic is generated, measure the volume, and analyze the type of traffic as well. They’ll need to more seriously consider how to cope with these demands for reduced latency, higher bandwidth, more signaling and higher quality of service (QoS). This requires a more sophisticated and comprehensive approach to mobile network planning.”

The report comes amidst a troubled time for the connected car, as questions raised about the security of this new technology have come to the forefront. A senator tabled legislation in February that called for the regulation of car cyber security, and people resorted to putting their keys in the freezer to avoid high-tech thievery.