Network Testing & Measurement Solutions for M2M

Todd Cotts, Director of Product Management
Mosaik Solutions

As I outlined in the first part of this series, reliable and high-quality connectivity is vital to the success of any M2M solution provider. In order to correctly configure and provision M2M devices (fixed or mobile) to connect to the best network coverage available, it is important the provider be able to collect and analyze specific intelligence about wireless networks. In the second part of the series, I will address the two types of network intelligence most important to an M2M solution provider: network coverage and network status.

M2MNetwork coverage data usually includes operator name, network mode, geographic area, specific network technologies (e.g., 2G, 3G, 4G), and even such data as Cell ID. Collecting network coverage intelligence for analysis can be accomplished in a variety of ways. One method is to gain access to proprietary network coverage data made available from an operator to its partners. Another means of collecting network coverage data involves the time-consuming process of going to each operatorís marketed network coverage maps. There are, however, some automated SaaS solutions available to M2M solution providers today that allow them to retrieve available network coverage from a maintained coverage database based on specific criteria.

Still yet, another approach to collecting wireless network coverage information involves crowd-sourced data. Providers of crowd-sourced coverage data often pay individuals (or solicit their free participation) to gather wireless network coverage intelligence by performing drive tests and walk tests in geographic locations using their mobile network operator connected smartphones. This data is then collected and made available in coverage maps that can be accessed via the Internet. Crowd-sourced wireless network coverage data has many advantages, but it is limited to select locations that may or may not represent the needs of an M2M solution provider, and because of the date stamp, it may or may not include the latest build-out of an operatorís network.

While network coverage information is vital to developing and deploying successful M2M solutions, knowing the status of a wireless network for any given point in time or location is equally, if not more, important. Network status has to do with how well a network is performing at a specific time and location or route. To collect this type of data for analysis, an M2M solution provider can turn to crowd-sourced solutions, but again, like marketed coverage information, the crowd-sourced information may or may not be relevant due to limited selection of locations or routes as well as the date of the test. To gain a thorough view of how a particular wireless network, or series of networks, performs at any given time and location, an M2M solution provider may wish to conduct its own network testing and analysis.

Today there are a number of approaches to testing and measurement that an M2M solution provider may employ. One approach involves expensive, complex, and cumbersome software and hardware used by mobile network operators to design, deploy, troubleshoot, and improve their networks. But because of the cost, lack of scalability, and complicated equipment, this approach does not make sense for M2M solution providers. On the other end of the spectrum is the use of a software app to test the state of a wireless network. However, while there are many variations of software apps today that capture signal strength and connectivity speeds, among other data, they are standalone solutions limited to single point in time and location tests. A standalone app also does not allow an M2M solution provider to sync multiple operator devices for comparative analysis. What a standalone software app solution ultimately lacks, however, is the ability to track network performance over a specified period of time and specified route, and then communicate that data near-real time to a user-friendly, cloud-based analytics dashboard.

The ideal network testing and measurement solution for an M2M solution provider is one that enables the provider to collect their own network coverage and network status data, compare multiple networks, map the data over time and location or route, and view and analyze the data near real time, all while being fast, simple, scalable, and economical. In Part 3 of this series, we will take a look at a network testing and measurement solution that delivers all of these features and benefits.

Todd Cotts
As the director of product management, Cotts is responsible for balancing the competing interests of Mosaikís clients, sales and product management to deliver valuable and marketable solutions. †With more than 13 years of telecom experience, he has served in roles from marketing to product management for some of the industryís leading names such as Sprint/Nextel and Kyocera Communications. His many areas of expertise include cross-functional collaboration, training and leadership, product lifecycle management, market research, project management, process improvement, customer facing and trade show marketing and the end-to-end RFP process.†

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