Over-the-air (OTA) refers to the wireless transmission of information. It is most commonly used for sending information to Internet-of-things (IoT) devices and for facilitating TV and radio broadcasts.
What is OTA used for?
OTA connections serve a few key purposes.
OTA updates from original equipment manufacturers (OEM) deliver new software, firmware and other data directly to mobile devices, namely smartphones. An OTA update is also used to initialize and configure subscriber identification module (SIM) cards in new devices.
TV and radio signals
OTA is also used to send and receive radio and television broadcasts. These transmissions are digital broadcast signals that are typically picked up by antennas, as opposed to channels offered by cable providers sent via fiber-optics or DSL.
Other IoT devices
As more types of devices are created that are able to connect to the internet and other sources of data transmission, OTA use is expanding to serve updates to these devices as well. Some common examples are smart home devices and autonomous vehicles.
How OTA works
Updates for software and firmware can be either automatic or manual, typically depending on the user’s preference. OEMs can push out these updates using two methods.
The first is edge-to-cloud, in which a microcontroller receives updates from a remote server. The second is gateway-to-cloud which uses an internet-connected gateway to receive updates from a remote server.
OTA uses a client-server architecture. This process starts with back-end systems that send out requests. OTA gateways process these requests to make them readable by a device. A Short Message Service Centre (SMSC) then sends the processed requests over a wireless network to the device. Finally, the device receives and executes that request.