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Internet of Thingies bods: Forget 3G, let's go straight to 4G

It's M2M, Id-IoT: Any fule kno that's Inter-Operability Testing

A shiny new cash point

The M2M (machine to machine) industry is restyling itself as The Internet of Things, and in keeping with the new trendy name, it doesn’t want any of that old-fashioned 3G.

Macario Namie, marketing veep at M2M stalwart Jasper Wireless, told The Register that while the names change, the problems don’t. He says his company is seeing a split between low data volume customers and a new generation that is looking to do things like video – and wants 4G. This leaves a gap in the middle.

Jasper Wireless is the company that non-mobile equipment manufacturers go to when they want their devices connected. It has around 1,000 enterprise customers over 20 vertical markets which gives Jasper a good feel for how the machi... *cough* Internet of Things market is developing.

One trend is the demand for over-the-air software updates in the automotive industry. Jasper counts GM, Ford, Volvo and Tesla as customers. Namie points out that Toyota has just recalled 1.9 million Prius vehicles for a software update.

One of the issues with 4G LTE is its huge number of frequencies and a split across frequency and time division duplexes, making it impossible for any one manufacturer to cover everything. Namie says that 4G in Europe is “a challenge” and sees US adoption as being far easier. This is because the States has nationwide frequency allocations while the various EU member states have apportioned different slots for different purposes.

The Jasper staffer said he doesn’t see software defined radio as a solution, as it’s seen as too "bleeding edge" for the ultra-conservative automotive industry, and yet it may well be the first to adopt 4G because it has the application.

While an ATM sends just a tiny amount of data and is hence well-served by 2G, a "connected" car sending significant data – both telemetry and perhaps video – might need the bandwidth of 4G.

The established M2M 2G model is a different way of thinking for the operators. A device subscribed to an M2M 2G contract provides an average revenue stream of $1 to $2 a month. This compares to a world average of $12 a month for a standard voice/data contract and could reflect badly on the quarterly figures, so the networks have started breaking out the numbers separately.

On the other hand, M2M is fantastic for subscriber acquisition and retention: churn is virtually non-existent and one single enterprise may account for many thousands of subscribers – all of which looks good to the analyst types who crawl over operator numbers.

The low churn could prove to be an issue in time. Things like electricity meters use 2G and are likely to be expected to last another decade, but while some networks have committed to keep 2G running in the short term, they are unlikely to want to do it for that length of time.

Of course to mobile types, M2M is a far better name than Internet of Things, because IoT stands for Inter-Operability Testing. Which raises the question: if you have multiple IoT devices to connect together, do you need to IoT the Internet of Things? ®

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