Despite the doubts about its appropriateness, LTE technology offers numerous benefits as an M2M communications technology, according to new research from Heavy Reading.
In a new paper, the analyst company claims that LTE can help to reduce operating costs associated with M2M services, and offer a “future proof” alternative to more widely used 2G and 3G systems.
“At first blush, LTE seems to have everything that M2M users don’t need,” said Tim Kridel, a research analyst with Heavy Reading. “That assumption is correct, but it also overlooks all of the reasons why so many operators, vendors and end users are already exploring LTE for M2M – and, in a few cases, using it.”
According to Kridel, the spectral efficiency of LTE makes it an “intriguing” option for M2M applications.
“Its spectral efficiency and other attributes reduce the operator’s cost of delivering service below that of incumbent technologies such as GPRS, CDMA2000 1X and UMTS,” he said.
“Further, some users are considering LTE as a form of future-proofing, expecially those whose devices need to remain in the field for five, 10 or 15 years. For them, paying a premium for LTE hardware could be less expensive than replacing 2.5G modules when operators shut down those networks,” he added.
Indeed, some M2M users are already considering the use of LTE, despite the drawbacks of spotty coverage, band fragmentation and steep module costs, says Heavy Reading.
Nevertheless, the adoption of LTE for M2M applications is unlikely to grow substantially before 2015, as operators and vendors intensify efforts to slash LTE’s hardware premium.
Although 2G technology is more commonly used to support M2M applications, AT&T (Dallas, TX, USA) and Verizon Wireless (New York City, NY, USA) – the two biggest mobile operators in the US – have announced plans to shut down those networks in the next few years.
Verizon Wireless, in particular, is obviously keen to migrate traffic from older networks and drive LTE economies of scale, but some analysts say 4G technology’s high module costs and relatively limited coverage make it a poor M2M substitute.