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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?

The world's view of M2M market evolution appears to diverge. On one hand, Karam predicts that M2M vendors will skip 3G and go directly to 4G. But IHS deems 3G technologies to be "still the most practical way forward for M2M applications."

Karam firmly believes 3G shouldn't be an option for M2M vendors looking for a new network in the long run. He noted that 3G's fundamental network architecture is the same as 2G, 3G doesn't offer IP-based network, and most important, isn't scalable.

"If you attach billions of M2M devices to 2G or 3G network, each device will be using a substantial amount of network resources just to signal 'I am here, '" he explained. In contrast, M2M devices attached to the 4G-based IP network will always stay connected and only send messages that prompt actions.

Of course, a number of M2M and IoT devices will use mobile phones as the gateway to the IP network. However, Karam said, "A lot of M2M, wearable and e-health devices, billions of objects, will need to be directly connected to cellular network, rather than going through a gateway." When considering security, coverage and applications, "LTE is a clear choice," he explained.

M2M LTE module shipment forecast

M2M LTE module shipment forecast (Source: IHS)

IHS' Builta, however, sees the limited coverage of LTE as an issue. "Globally, the 3G network coverage is far more comprehensive," he said. "This is especially important because we believe most LTE CAT 1, CAT 0 and LTC MTC modules will be single-mode (meaning no 2G or 3G fallback)." He concluded, "Therefore LTE network coverage has to be extensive (including in rural areas) before these solutions become practical for mobile M2M applications."

But if you look at M2M market development regionally, you see the picture changes.

Verizon, for example, announced last year that it would repurpose the 3G spectrum for 4G. In essence it has begun cutting off its CDMA to use on 4G. As this develops, Verizon has to move its current and future M2M/IoT traffic somewhere. That will be LTE, predicted Karam.

According to IHS, operators in a handful of countries, including Japan, South Korea and Australia, have already started, or are in the process of, shutting down 2G, moving entirely to 3G and 4G air-interface technologies. Among operators that announced plans to shut down 2G in upcoming years are AT&T and SingTel (a mobile operator in Singapore).

Will M2M move to Sigfox or Lora?

Among options for M2M vendors to move somewhere else, there are low power wide area networks (LPWAN) technologies, according to IHS. LPWAN "actually refers to a number of different networking technologies" including Sigfox, NWave and Lora, Builta explained.

These are indeed options for "vertical, private networks" that require low speeds and less power, according to Karam. But for M2M industrial applications requiring SIM card security and software upgrades, the options are limited. Sigfox, for example, can't meet the demand because it offers no downlink, he added. Some software upgrades also require a bigger downlink pipe.

Karam sees scalability as the key to LTE's M2M applications. For example, when a household smoke detector starts to beep, the homeowner can turn on a camera to see what's going on. "You can do all this within the same network, LTE."

The use of a video camera for this particular M2M application may require LTE Cat 1, while the smoke detector is based on Cat 0. "Different M2M applications can live together in the same LTE network," he concluded.

- Junko Yoshida
??EE Times

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