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2G, 3G, 4G … OMG! What G is Right for M2M? (Part 6)

Continuing

As a quick recap, in the various previous parts of this thread, we have covered:

  • M2M Devices Are Different.
  • M2M Applications Are Different.
  • Network Coverage Needs Are Not The Same.
  • Device Longevity.
  • Early M2M Data Transmission Experiences.
  • Introduction of Digital TDMA and CDMA.
  • Digital Service Expanded And Changed.
  • The AMPS Sunset Requirement.
  • New Digital Data Transmission Methods.
  • Higher Speed IP Data.
  • Another Fundamental Technology Change ...
  • Spectrum Needs Increased.
  • GSM Radio Prices Drop.
  • 3G Data Speeds Increase.
  • 4G Cellular Introduced.
  • Multiple Mode 3G/4G Radios.
  • Higher Radio Costs.
  • The Grand Unification(?)
  • 2G Cellular Longevity.
  • Impact on M2M.

This week, I will summarize this long series of posts with a summary of the characteristics relevant to M2M Applications and the drivers for selecting a Cellular technology for a given Application.


2G GSM (GPRS)

Note: EDGE is not a consideration for new M2M Applicationsthere aren't any EDGE Modules in volume production that can be used for M2M Applications.

Pros

  • Lowest cost radio Modules available today.
  • Excellent coverage today (but see Cons).

Cons

  • GPRS Service is likely to be unavailable in 2 to 3 years.

Performance

  • Typically 5 to 40 kbits/sec depending on location (and how many GPRS channels are available in a given market). This is sufficient for some M2M Applications.

Radio Module Costs

  • GPRS Modules are the lowest-cost radios that are still available today. However, there are no new low-cost GPRS-only Modules being developed.

Short-term Coverage

  • Excellent coverage in all Cellular service areas today.
  • However, in major cities, the GPRS channels are crowded and data rates are likely to be low.

Long-term Coverage

  • GPRS data service is highly likely to be unavailable by 2013 to 2014 in most major cities and 2015 to 2016 in all other areas.

Other Issues

  • Major North American GSM carriers have stopped certifying any new GPRS-only M2M Applications.

Summary

  • Regardless of the low-cost Module availability, GPRS service has no real longevity and this is a killer issue. Thus, it makes no sense to develop and deploy a new GPRS M2M Application today!

2G CDMA (ANSI-2000 1xRTT)

Pros

  • Next lowest-cost Modules after GPRS.
  • Best coverage available today and service availability assured through some Carriers, such as Sprint, for 10+ years.

Cons

  • True nationwide coverage will degrade with some non-Sprint and Canadian markets after 5 to 7 years.

Performance

  • Typically 25 to 100 kbits/sec. This is sufficient for many to most M2M Applications.

Radio Module Costs

  • Next lowest Module cost above GPRS.

Short-term Coverage

  • Excellent. 1xRTT data services are available from a number of Carriers just about everywhere that Cellular services is available.

Long-term Coverage

  • Excellent with some carriers (Sprint has committed to 10+ years of 1xRTT service, although Verizon and others are likely to discontinue service by 2017 or 2018).

Other Issues

  • Coverage in Canada is likely to be unavailable sooner than in the US.

Summary

  • For the US market, 1XRTT is an excellent choice for all M2M Applications today, as long as the data rates are sufficient (true for most M2M Applications).

3G GSM (HSPA)

Pros

  • Higher data rates compared to other currently deployed 3G technologies (with the exception of 4G LTE).

Cons

  • Module costs are higher than GPRS and 1xRTT (possibly higher than EV-DO Rev. A) Modules.
  • Coverage in major cities and some major highways onlyunlikely to ever be available outside current footprint.

Performance

  • Typically 1 to 3 Mbits/sec (May be higher in some markets that have deployed wider-band HSPA service). This is more than sufficient for almost every M2M Application.

Radio Module Costs

  • More expensive than GPRS, 1xRTT or EV-DO Rev. 0 Modules (and may be higher cost than EV-DO Rev. A Modules).

Short-term Coverage

  • Most major cities, some smaller cities/regions, and some major highways only.

Long-term Coverage

  • Likely to stay approximately at current deployed footprint (although T-Mobile may expand coverage), since the future plans for the Carriers is to transition to LTE.

Other Issues

  • Eventually, even the current HSPA coverage is likely to be replaced by LTE. This will require a swap-out of any M2M Applications that use HSPA Modules.

Summary

  • HSPA is not a good choice for most M2M Applications, since 1xRTT or EV-DO should be sufficient and has far better coverage. However, if a high data rate is required, then this is a good choice until LTE becomes more widely available.

3G CDMA (ANSI-2000 EV-DO Rev. 0, EV-DO Rev. A)

Pros

  • Next lowest-cost Modules after 1xRTT.
  • Best coverage available today and service availability assured through some Carriers for 10+ years.

Cons

  • True nationwide coverage will degrade with some non-Sprint and Canadian markets after 5 to 7 years.

Performance

  • Speed: Typically 0.4 to 1 Mbits/sec. This is more than sufficient for most M2M Applications.

Radio Module Costs

  • Next lowest Module cost above 1xRTT.

Short-term Coverage

  • Excellent. EV-DO (Rev. 0 and Rev. A) data services are available from a number of Carriers just about everywhere that Cellular services is available.

Long-term Coverage

  • Excellent with some carriers (Sprint has committed to 10+ years of 1xRTT and EV-DO service, although Verizon and others are likely to discontinue service by 2017 or 2018).

Other Issues

  • Coverage in Canada is likely to be unavailable sooner than the US.

Summary

  • For the US market, EV-DO is an excellent choice for M2M Applications today if the higher data is needed (i.e., if 1xRTT data rates are not sufficient).

4G Technologies (LTE)

Note: 4G WiMAX is not considered for M2M Applications here, since it has limited coverage. Furthermore, all US Carriers who have deployed WiMAX are deploying LTE as their future technology.

Pros

  • Highest data rates available for foreseeable future (at least until LTE Advanced becomes available!).

Cons

  • Coverage is insufficient for most M2M Applications today, and roaming between Carriers is likely to be a problem for a number of years.

Performance

  • Typically expected to be between 2 to 10 Mbits/sec. This is way more than sufficient for almost all M2M Applications.

Radio Module Costs

  • Highest Module costs for a number of years into the future.

Short-term Coverage

  • Limited to many major cities.

Long-term Coverage

  • Likely to be excellent in time, as all Carriers plan to deploy LTE in all markets. However, due to frequency spectrum differences, roaming between Carriers is likely to be poor for a long while.

Other Issues

  • Roaming between Carriers is likely to be a problem for quite some time.
  • Once committed to a particular Carrier, the Modules cannot be moved to another providerdue to frequency restrictions.

Summary

  • LTE is likely to be an excellent choice for longevity of service. However, due to current unavailability of low-cost Modules, and the potential for roaming problems, this is not a good choice if the data rates of other technologies (such as EV-DO Rev. A or HSPA) are sufficient.

Conclusion and Summary

It is important to note that the process of selecting a technology for any given M2M Application is not simple. What I have attempted to provide in this series of posts is a list of the considerations that drive the selection processultimately, there is always some Application that does not neatly fit the mold. And, these considerations will change over time, as service availability, coverage and roaming issues change! To summarize the concepts presented, in general, for new M2M Applications today:

  • Do not select GPRS unless you are prepared to deal with the removal of this service within a couple of yearsthe availability of low-cost Modules simply does not outweigh the other concerns.
  • Select 1xRTT if the data rate is sufficient for the Application requirement, and longer-term Canadian service is not neededthis is the best choice today for most M2M Applications.
  • Select EV-DO Rev. 0 and EV-DO Rev. A if higher data rates are needed, and longer-term Canadian service is not neededthis is the next-best choice after 1xRTT.
  • Select HSPA if the above technologies do not have sufficient data rates, and the limited coverage, higher Module cost and [future] removal of service are not a concern.
  • Select LTE if the highest data rates are absolutely needed, and the very limited coverage today and very high Module costs today are not a concern. Be prepared to deal with the roaming limitations due to spectrum differences.

For most M2M Applications, 1xRTT (and, in some cases, EV-DO) is likely to be the choice that provides the right balance of low Module cost, Module availability, excellent coverage, extended service longevity (other than Canada) and deployment ease. However, as mentioned, there may be some Application requirement that drives the selection of another technologythese should be carefully considered!

Questions?

Please contact me, or our Sales Engineering department for further assistance.