Sierra Wireless launches 4G module for cars on Verizon network

Sierra Wireless has launched an embedded module aimed at supporting in-vehicle telematics and infotainment systems on the 4G network of Verizon Wireless.

The announcement comes as industry figures continue to express doubts about the suitability of 4G technology for M2M communications.

Individuals such as John Horn, the chief executive of MVNO RACO Wireless (Cincinnati, OH, USA), have questioned the business case for LTE-based M2M services, with 4G modules still much costlier than 2G or 3G ones.

Sierra Wireless has launched an embedded module aimed at supporting in-vehicle telematics and infotainment systems on the 4G network of Verizon Wireless.

The announcement comes as industry figures continue to express doubts about the suitability of 4G technology for M2M communications.

Individuals such as John Horn, the chief executive of MVNO RACO Wireless (Cincinnati, OH, USA), have questioned the business case for LTE-based M2M services, with 4G modules still much costlier than 2G or 3G ones.

Nevertheless, Sierra Wireless (Richmond, Canada) says there is growing demand for the integration of 4G technology into vehicles because it can support a range of infotainment and location-based services more quickly and “with less lag time” than either 2G or 3G.

Matt Hatton of Machina Research says there are considerations beyond cost that may drive a move towards LTE.

“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,” he says. “Verizon has given some indications that by 2022 it will be farming 2G and 3G spectrum for LTE, so it’s little surprise that LTE is getting the focus.”

Sierra Wireless says its AirPrime AR7550 includes a dedicated application processor, reducing design complexity, as well as integrated cloud connectivity to simplify management and maintenance over the lifetime of a vehicle.

“The AirPrime automotive module for the Verizon [New York City, NY, USA] LTE network provides a cost-effective solution that enables automotive OEMs to take advantage of the higher bandwidth, lower latency and network longevity LTE offers to provide better real-time navigation, location-based services, and streaming media as well as other infotainment services,” said John Sullivan, executive director of the M2M Platform Group for Verizon Enterprise Solutions.

Another problem for manufacturers is that LTE networks use a whole variety of spectrum bands, depending on the region and operator, making it difficult to develop a one-size-fits-all module.

By contrast, most 3G networks outside the Americas use the 2.1GHz band, driving economies of scale and lowering equipment costs.

As noted by Sierra Wireless, however, the older network technologies may be incapable of supporting some of the infotainment services that vehicle owners want to use.

Speaking at the recent M2M World Congress in London, Marc Overton, the head of M2M for UK operator EE (Hatfield, UK), said some vehicles in North America were seeing up to 30GB of data usage each month.

Sierra Wireless says the AirPrime AR7550 has already been technically approved for use on the Verizon Wireless network and that samples are now available to OEM customers for testing and development purposes.

Variants of the module for LTE networks in other areas of the world are also sampling now, says the company.