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M2M systems need to shift from 2G to 4G, fast!

Posted: 10 Jul 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Sequans Communications? M2M? 2G? 4G? LTE?

A large number of machine-to-machine (M2M) devices including smart metres, home security devices and vending machines are still largely dependent on 2G (GPRS, or general packet radio service) cellular links for device-to-device communication. However, designers of M2M systems need to move fast as cellular network operators across the world are planning to shut down their 2G networks.

M2M system vendors must decide soon to move their network "from 2G to something else," stated Georges Karam, founder and CEO of Sequans Communications S.A. (Paris).

A year ago, that "something else" was unclear, acknowledged Karam. Despite all the talk of the Internet of Things (IoT), M2M's transition to IoT wasn't happening yet, and 4G was deemed too expensive, he explained.

Georges Karam

Georges Karam, Sequans CEO

But come 2015, "there is no doubt anymore," stressed the Sequans CEO. 4G, whose cost is now comparable to 3G, armed with the network longevity of at least 10 years, is the clear choice, he said.

The proof is in Sequans' recent partnership agreement with Gemalto (Amsterdam) to integrate Sequans' LTE chipset platforms, optimised for IoT applications, into a family of wireless communication modules for the M2M and IoT markets.

Gemalto, known as a leading smart card vendor, is one of the two top-tier suppliers of M2M modules, with a 20-25 per cent market share, according to Karam.

According to IHS, the other key vendors in the market are Sierra Wireless, Telit, u-blox and Huawei.

Gemalto, presently offering 2G and 3G M2M modules, will ship the latest Sequans-powered modules, first in the U.S. market, in 2H15. Sequans' Calliope LTE platform is the world's first Cat 1 (10Mb/s) LTE chipset solution optimised for low power, and lower bandwidth requirements, typical in many M2M applications, Sequans explained.

Sequans is spending 70 per cent of its R&D budget on the development of LTE Cat 0 and MTC (machine type communication)-based IoT/M2M solutions, according to Karam. Seeing the emerging opportunity, the firm is betting on the IoT/M2M market that leverages the LTE-based IP network. Starting with LTE Cat 1 now, LTE will be able to offer options, variations and migration paths to Cat 0 and MTC down the line, within the same network, according to Sequans.

3G vs. 4G

Josh Builta, associate director of M2M Research at IHS, acknowledged that the evolution of LTE for the M2M market is "certainly a topic we are monitoring closely and is an issue that will impact our forecasts on the M2M market, in particular the split between 3G vs. 4G in the years to come."

He explained, "If LTE CAT 1, CAT 0 and LTC MTC come to market as expected and deliver the features they are promising (e.g. low cost, low power consumption, etc.) they will undoubtedly account for a larger portion of the market."

Builta, however, cautioned that the transition won't happen overnight. He warned that LTE-M (which combines features that will optimise LTE for the M2M market to an unprecedented degree) is "still several years from release."

As a result, IHS expects the impact of new LTE technologies on M2M market forecasts "to really begin showing in the after 2018."

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