Aeris launches GSM offer, signs up FIAT

With a debate raging over the most appropriate cellular technology for M2M services, Aeris Communications has added GSM connectivity services to its offer and revealed that carmaker FIAT has become its first GSM customer.

The company, which describes itself as the only cellular operator catering exclusively to the M2M market, has long provided connectivity services over the rival CDMA standard but evidently felt a need to fortify its position, with various technologies facing an uncertain future.

With a debate raging over the most appropriate cellular technology for M2M services, Aeris Communications has added GSM connectivity services to its offer and revealed that carmaker FIAT has become its first GSM customer.

The company, which describes itself as the only cellular operator catering exclusively to the M2M market, has long provided connectivity services over the rival CDMA standard but evidently felt a need to fortify its position, with various technologies facing an uncertain future.

“This is a first for the connected vehicle industry,” said Steve Millstein, the managing director of Aeris (Santa Clara, CA, USA). “Aeris is a carrier that can provide solutions without a technology bias. We have automotive OEMs on CDMA and now GSM technologies.”

Aeris notes that the industry was “seriously injured” when analog systems were shut down and says it faces similar risks today.

By deploying both GSM and CDMA technologies, it aims to reduce the risk of obsolescence to customers like FIAT (Turin, Italy).

“Over the 15 years that we have been providing services to the M2M industry, we have learned that machines operate differently than people,” said Millstein. “And while that sounds incredibly obvious, it is amazing how many networks are not optimized for machines.”

Besides FIAT, Aeris also provides services to Honda’s (Tokyo, Japan) and Hyundai’s (Seoul, South Korea) connected vehicle programs.

News of its GSM launch comes even though larger operators like AT&T (Dallas, TX, USA) are planning to shut down their 2G networks over the next few years and rely solely on 3G and 4G infrastructure.

While Sprint (Overland Park, KS, USA) and T-Mobile (Bellevue, WA, USA), the number three and four players in the US market, appear more committed to 2G, various industry figures believe the technology will gradually fall out of use.

Indeed, even though 4G modules remain considerably more expensive than 2G or 3G ones, they are beginning to feature more prominently in M2M applications as the industry prepares for a possible 2G shutdown.

Last month, module maker Sierra Wireless (Richmond, Canada) launched an embedded module aimed at supporting in-vehicle telematics services on the 4G network of Verizon Wireless (New York City, NY, USA).

“LTE devices still command a substantial premium, but with a sector such as automotive, where the connection is expected to be in use for more than ten years, there is a future-proofing requirement for moving quickly to LTE, given that 2G and ultimately 3G networks will be switched off,” explained Matt Hatton, an analyst with Machina Research.