Developments in Global M2M

1/7/2013

There is no question M2M is growing on a global scale. From Europe to Asia and everywhere in between, the number of data connections globally continues to rise, and enter into emerging markets and applications. But where will we see the most growth potential on a worldwide basis?

Research firm Berg Insight, www.berginsight.com, reported growth in mobile network connections used for wireless M2M communication in all three major regional markets last year. Asia-Pacific was the strongest market in 2011, recording a year-on-year growth rate of 64% and reaching 34.5 million connections by the year-end. Europe and North America also posted substantial gains, growing around 27% each to 32.3 million and 29.3 million connections, respectively. Globally, the number of connections increased by 37% to reach 108 million in 2011. While that’s certainly not quite the 50 billion devices the industry is hoping to reach by 2020, it is certainly moving in the right direction.

With growth happening all over the map, it isn’t surprising that regional companies are starting to think about going global. However, expanding internationally can be a challenge when it comes to connected technology. In Europe, for example, devices use the standard GSM network, whereas in the U.S., both CDMA and GSM technologies are used.


The good news is suppliers are working hard to make global M2M products a reality. For the last three years, Newbury, U.K-based Vodafone, www.vodafone.com, has been offering M2M customers global SIM to support M2M capabilities and applications across the globe. Vodafone’s global SIM is pre-provisioned and ready to use, which the company says significantly reduces the complexity of installation, distribution, and deployment of an M2M solution. The global SIM works on any GSM network, with in-country local pricing in more than 120 countries.

Vodafone’s global solution acts as a local SIM wherever it roams, which means companies only have to worry about one tariff and one M2M supplier to manage. This is especially ideal for M2M solutions where devices are manufactured in one country but may be shipped to another—or where the final destination may not be known at time of manufacture.

Vodafone has also built on its global strategy by teaming up with Verizon Wireless, www.verizonwireless.com, and M2M program developer nPhase, www.nphase.com. Through the partnership, M2M devices can be deployed on both European GSM and U.S.-based CDMA and GSM networks through a single contact point. Now, customers can order SIMs provisioned in either format in an “inactive” or “active” state and configure them according to the needs of a specific solution.

German-based Cinterion Wireless Modules, www.cinterion.com, has taken a similar approach with its PXS8 and PVS8 multi-mode M2M modules for the U.S. market. The cellular modules allow devices to run on both the GSM and CDMA network—a feature the European company knew was necessary if it wanted to reach the U.S. market.

Dirk Klaes, global director of research and strategy at Cinterion, says the multi-mode modules were initially designed with the U.S. market in mind, but adds that they are actually global products because they can be implemented in any application, whether it is a telematics device running on 2G GSM networks in Europe, or a consumer device running on a 3G network in the U.S. The modules can also be upgraded to support LTE.

This type of scalability is key for companies looking to expand internationally, Klaes says, as it optimizes design, manufacturing, and logistical costs. “It reduces the number of variance that they have to design and manufacture and reduces the logistical challenges,” he explains.

He also believes multi-mode products like the PXS8 and PVS8 “future proof” devices. So even if a company doesn’t require LTE or even 3G in a certain application or market right now, they can still use the same module and upgrade later.

Although many still consider the M2M market to be complex and fragmented, these types of developments indicate that simplification is coming—even on a global scale.

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