Reporting live from the CTIA Enterprise and Applications show in San Diego, California, the M2M Zone has had a chance to speak with many leading industry executives to get their take on one of the hot topics of the week: 2G versus 3G and 4G in M2M applications.
It seems that everyone has their own opinion on the matter, but most agree that 2G isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“More than 90% of M2M applications use less than 1 megabit of data per month,” says Alex Brisbourne, president of KORE Telematics (Alpharetta, Ga., U.S.A.). “4G is not needed for most applications and that is not changing anytime soon.”
But the questions seems to be centered around whether companies should invest in 3G technologies now, or skip it and go right to 4G technology for M2M applications in the future.
An important aspect of M2M connectivity is coverage; 2G networks are known for providing great coverage at cheap prices, while 3G has okay coverage at a slightly higher price. But it’s not only the coverage that is important; the power consumption is a huge factor when choosing the right network for an application. According to Brisbourne, 3G consumes twice as much power at 2G technologies, while 4G consumes three to four times that of 3G and five times that of 2G technologies. Power consumption, perhaps sometimes overlooked, is an essential factor due to battery life.
What Brisbourne pointed out, is that since 2G is cheaper, has low power consumption, and gets good connectivity, combined with the fact that 90% of applications only need 2G, pushing M2M toward 3G is “unrealistic,” especially when the you take into account the short lifespan 3G technology may have.
If 4G prices come down and ubiquitous coverage is achieved, 3G could be seen an unneeded middle man between 2G and 4G technology. In other words, why invest in 3G now- when it’s not necessary- when you can wait for 4G to achieve lower prices and better coverage?
According to Abhi Ingle, vice president of Mobility Applications Solutions at AT&T (Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.), nobody should still be using 2G in M2M applications.
“If you are going 2G right now you need your head examined in my opinion,” Ingle said at the M2M Zone Conference at the CTIA Enterprise and Applications show in San Diego, California. He points out that 3G is a global standard and that 2G is obsolete.
Sergio Ramos, CTO at Quake Global (San Diego, Calif., U.S.A.), another panelist at the conference, agreed, stating that Australia was forced to go 3G already.
Regardless of standards, some executives are looking at the issue through the longevity of a product. Steve Pazol, president of nPhase (San Diego, Calif., U.S.A.) - another panelist during the M2M Zone conference- believes it comes down to the product and the longevity of the deployment.
“If you’re going to deploy an asset that’s going to be out for ten years, you should spend a little more so you’re not using an obsolete technology,” says Pazol.
Brisbourne agrees, stating that people have to plan somewhat intelligently with M2M technologies. It’s application dependent,” he says. “But 2G will remain and be dominant.”
Bisbourne isn’t the only one who feels this way. John Horn, president of RACO Wireless (Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.) has emphasized that his company has made a commitment to 2G technology, and has even signed contracts with its customers stating it.
Despite all the differing opinions, the fact is there will eventually be a shift to a higher, faster technology. “As more and more M2M products are made in the coming years, that when you will see the shift,” says Mike Ueland, Vice President and General Manager at Telit Wireless Solutions, Inc., the U.S.-based mobile technology arm of Telit Communications (Trieste, Italy).
The question plaguing the M2M industry is when will this shift happen and what is the right move in preparing for the change? According to Statton Nicolaides, CEO of Numerex (Atlanta, Ga., U.S.A.), whenever the shift occurs, companies need to be ready for it.
“Everyone needs to evolve with the movement of these technologies”