M2M set to drive growth in cellular connectivity

M2M and embedded mobile applications will lead to strong growth in mobile cellular connectivity, according to a report from Ian Streule, senior manager at Analysys Mason.

“Many millions of new non-personal, data-only mobile devices will be added to existing networks, supporting a plethora of established, emerging and presently unimaginable applications,” said Streule (pictured) in the report “Growth in the M2M market will have long-lasting mobile network effects”.

Vehicle tracking devices, industrial monitors, handheld devices such as e-readers and cameras, and healthcare monitors are some of the devices expected to emerge and proliferate.

Today’s mobile networks are predominantly geared towards supporting the communications needs of personal subscribers with voice, SMS and small-screen internet handsets, as well as a growing base of mobile broadband users with laptops, tablets and, increasingly, smartphones. Handsets and laptops are typically replaced every two to four years, and operators can subsidise the up-front costs to stimulate the rapid take-up of new devices.

“There is a sharp contrast between the current situation and our expectations for the growing M2M market,” said Streule.

“Chipsets for M2M use are embedded into the host machines and end-user devices. The very nature of such devices means that they exist in a variety of situations, sometimes places that are costly to reach, such as on-board vehicle electronics, utility meter cabinets, industrial facilities and so on.”

As a result, these chipsets are much more difficult to replace and upgrade than personal mobile handsets and laptops, which can be upgraded simply by sending new devices through the post, or through retail outlets. Furthermore, the expected lifetime of some M2M devices is significantly longer than for a handset.

In a recent study for the GSMA, Analysys Mason found that around 90 per cent of these M2M devices currently use 2G technology, with only a minority adopting multi-mode 2G+3G chipsets. The 2G devices typically generate small amounts of traffic. In some key segments, expectations are for long device lifetimes, with many devices deployed today expected to remain operational for more than ten years.

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