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Blues Wireless

Cellular IoT Network and Infrastructure Redundancy

Rob Lauer
DevRel @ Blues Wireless. You can find me rambling as @RobLauer on Twitter.
Originally published at blues.io ・4 min read

Title image credit @alinnnaaaa on Unsplash.

If you've been following along in this blog series, you've seen how cellular connectivity can be ideal for IoT solutions in logistics, manufacturing, security, asset tracking, among myriad other industries. You've also learned what "cellular IoT" really means, and some of its associated advantages.

Today I want to take a brief look at another de facto advantage of cellular, and that is the utilization of an underlying infrastructure that has been built up over decades.

An overlapping, interconnected mesh of connectivity, if you will:

network connection mesh

Specifically, we are going to look the topic of redundancy and its relation to cellular IoT. How prepared are you for all possible remote deployment scenarios throughout the lifespan of your IoT deployments? Are you banking on a tried-and-true connectivity method?

In this blog series we are demystifying cellular and taking a critical look at four key topics related to wireless in the Internet of Things:

Why Redundancy is Critical for the IoT

What does happen if your device loses network connectivity? Can it still perform the tasks that it was built to do? Or does data accumulate in storage until the device is full, and then it fails hard?

Regardless of the why of a failure, your end users are less likely to blame their Wi-Fi routers and more likely to blame you, the device provider, for not being able to account for all outage scenarios.

This is why redundancy is a critical component of proper cellular IoT deployments. With a contingency plan for every predictable failure point, you can maximize availability and reduce the impact of negative network issues. Even if you're banking on Wi-Fi, wired Ethernet, or LoRaWAN, cellular can (and should) be a key consideration when crafting a fallback, or redundant, network solution.

Redundancy is important with the devices themselves, yes, but it's just as important to work with a mobile network operator that considers redundancy at a higher level.

Cellular Network Redundancy

Many cellular IoT providers offer SIM cards that are limited to a single mobile network operator in a single geographic area. If this is the case, how do you deploy to rural areas with coverage on another network, not to mention other countries entirely?

A proper cellular IoT company will offer solutions that work with highly-regarded providers and their first class partners in neighboring regions. When you can't predict the country of deployment, or if the solution itself is meant to travel between geographic regions, a seamless reconnection from network-to-network is critical.

It's also important to factor in which wireless standards your IoT module is using. If you're moving from a region with primarily GSM support to LTE, for example, will your solution gracefully recover?

Case in point, the Blues Wireless Notecard provides cellular IoT connectivity in a low-power fashion using LTE-M, NB-IoT, and CAT-1 technologies. In global regions without access to these standards, coverage is also available via UMTS/HSPA+ and GSM/GPRS/EDGE.

Cellular Infrastructure Redundancy

If you consider a traditional Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet deployment, your network relies on a single node or gateway to function. Your devices will only be connected to the network for as long as that centralized connection point is also live.

Cellular, on the other hand, has a massive advantage in terms of overlapping tower coverage. If access to one cell tower is lost, there is a high probability of another tower taking over (albeit with possibly a weaker signal, but a signal nonetheless).

overlapping signal map example

Image credit Seyid Yagmur.

With this method of overlapping cell tower zones, your devices will always have a fallback connection should a centralized access point go down.

Cellular Security

There is always an inherent risk with connecting to the Internet. We constantly work to mitigate those risks with SSL certificate verification, robust authentication protocols, VPNs, and the like.

Cellular holds numerous security-related advantages for those of us building in the IoT:

  • Mobile networks securely authenticate devices via SIM cards.
  • Devices don't "share" the network like they do on Wi-Fi, so they can't interact with each other.
  • Cell network firewalls can limit device connectivity to only core functions.
  • Device manufacturers can provide a VPN tunnel from device to cloud without exposing it to a public Internet connection.

This is where the Blues Wireless Notecard shines. The Notecard comes pre-provisioned to securely communicate with the Blues Wireless cloud service, Notehub.io. Traffic to/from the Notecard travels through VPN tunnels and is never exposed to the public Internet.

Summary

Using an IoT connectivity option with redundant capabilities in terms of network, infrastructure, and security is paramount. Cellular IoT is the best choice for a wide range of IoT applications, and the baked-in advantages provided by utilizing an existing mature network can't be understated.

Learn more about how Blues Wireless is making cellular IoT adoption easier for businesses AND developers with the Notecard and Notecarrier.

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