MQTT challenges


MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) is a widely used communication protocol in IoT systems.

I typically focus on the advantages, but there are also challenges with its implementation in real-life Internet of Things deployments.


Lack of Encryption

MQTT does not provide encryption, which is a security vulnerability. We must use additional measures such as TLS/SSL to ensure the security and confidentiality of transmitted information.

Authentication and Authorization

Implementing robust authentication and authorization mechanisms requires in-depth knowledge of other technologies, like X.509 Certificates. Without restrictive access policies, attackers can leverage a single compromised device to steal data and impact the operations of the entire fleet of connected devices.


Quality of Service

MQTT supports three levels of Quality of Service: 0 (At most once), 1 (At least once), and 2 (Exactly once). Choosing the proper configuration is not always evident. Inadequate setup can lead to significant consequences, including:

  • Losing important messages.
  • Increased energy consumption impacting the lifetime of battery-powered devices.
  • High communication and cloud backend costs.
  • Data corruption due to duplicated messages.

Message Retention

Another challenge is the message retention. MQTT brokers do not store messages persistently by default. Ensuring end-to-end information delivery requires appropriate configuration of the MQTT Broker and MQTT Clients exchanging data. The misconfiguration can lead to lost messages even when using QoS 1 or 2.


MQTT relies on a central broker to manage the communication between the connected devices, which makes the system vulnerable to a single point of failure and can cause issues with scalability. Implementing proper load balancing and distributing the messages across multiple broker instances can handle increased traffic but requires technical knowledge to implement correctly.


There are various versions and implementations of the MQTT protocol, which can cause compatibility and interoperability issues. For example, the MQTT implementation at AWS IoT significantly differs from the official standard. Ensuring compatibility and avoiding version mismatches when using devices from different vendors can be challenging.

Device Lifecycle Management

Managing the lifecycle of IoT devices, including their registration and removal from the MQTT ecosystem, requires careful design and implementation. IoT fleet can consist of thousands of devices. To handle that scale, device lifecycle management must be automated. It is possible to achieve this using the MQTT protocol, but MQTT alone does not provide any out-of-the-box working solution.

Data Format

MQTT documentation does not specify the format of the data payload. That elasticity provides vast potential but causes challenges during solution implementation and maintenance. Devices can send MQTT messages using different formats than expected by the applications, resulting in corrupted data and integration challenges.

Flexible Topic Structure

The Flexible Topics Structure is one of the most powerful features of the MQTT protocol. As always in life, with great power comes great responsibility. Inadequately designed topics lead to:

  • Scalability issues.
  • Security vulnerabilities.
  • Difficulties in data management.

The MQTT protocol does not enforce any structure, but designing it right requires experience and a profound understatement of distributed systems.


There are limited tools to debug issues with MQTT communication and verify all edge cases. Flexible Topic and data payload structures make finding the root causes of problems even more difficult.


Despite the number of challenges with the proper deployment of MQTT protocol, that is my favorite way to establish communication in distributed IoT ecosystems.

When done right, MQTT provides:

  • Security.
  • Scalability.
  • Manageability.
  • Universal yet restrictive information access.

What is your take on the MQTT protocol?

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