There are many aspects about the machine-to-machine (M2M) industry that everyone seems to agree upon, such as its growth potential. But, one topic that seems to divide the industry is the issue of 2G versus 3G and 4G in M2M applications. This week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, M2M Zone spoke with some major players in the M2M industry to get their take on the subject.
Kanwalinder Singh, the head of business development and new markets for M2M at Qualcomm (San Diego, Calif., USA), believes that the M2M industry is one that is migrating toward 3G and 4G technology. Qualcomm is currently concentrating on the telematics and utilities management verticals of the M2M market, and believes that 3G tariffs are more compelling than what 2G offers. In addition, Singh said that 3G pricing is moving closer to meeting 2G pricing, which would make 3G an even more attractive option.
Singh also said that with AT&T’s move to shutdown GSM networks in favor of LTE, he could see many network operators moving to shut down 2G networks in the future.
Prior to Mobile World Congress, M2M Zone posted an article talking about how the longevity of M2M applications  may keep 2G networks around. Alex Brisbourne, president of KORE Telematics (Alpharetta, Ga., USA), said that 2G technology provides M2M with a wide coverage area at a cheap price. The article also mentions that M2M may rigidify spectrum use and that government regulation may reserve spectrum for 2G networks and M2M in the future.
Singh argues that spectrum is so scarce that the smartest thing to do would be to continue to encourage 3G for M2M instead of reserving spectrum that could be better utilized. He added that telematics, which primarily uses 4G technology, and utilities management, which transmits small amounts of data, provides a good example of the M2M industry today.
“It’s a very good snapshot of the market,” says Singh. “Automotive is showing the top of the market with 4G, while smart meters are bringing up the market with 3G.”
Another company that voiced its opinion on the subject at Mobile World Congress was Sierra Wireless (Vancouver, Canada). According to Brian Anderson, vice president of marketing solutions and services at Sierra Wireless, 2G and 3G technologies were designed for voice, while 4G was designed for data transmission, which makes it appealing for M2M. Anderson also said that M2M is about efficiency, and 4G is 95% more efficient at connecting devices compared to 2G technology.
Another factor to take into consideration with 2G versus 3G and 4G in the M2M industry is latency. According to Anderson, 3G and 4G provides a low latency of 100 to 200 milliseconds, while 2G is more along the lines of one or two seconds. This can be important when critical information is needed.
The industry still seems to be split on which technology is best for M2M applications. With CeBIT kicking off next week in Hannover, Germany, many more M2M companies will be sure to weigh in on the debate.