4G Networks Expand M2M Communication

Wayne Rash

One of the things that seems to have been an afterthought in 4G-related announcements from both Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless is found in those paragraphs that hide in the end of the press release. In the case of the 4G rollout announcements, both companies mention their new support for machine-to-machine (M2M) communications only in passing. But whichever company you use, this new access deserves more than a passing glance.

Virtually all the news coverage and the related Internet conversation is about how fast the new 4G services will be. Sprint already has a 4G phone, Verizon Wireless has just announced its 4G rollout to 38 cities and 60 airports. Both have focused their efforts first on wireless laptop cards, and there's been plenty of speculation about what the new 4G phones might look like, and how fast they might be able to download video.

While the two companies use very different approaches to 4G-Sprint with WiMax and Verizon with LTE-these technologies also have one little-noticed aspect besides speed. They can support a lot more devices than the old 3G networks they're starting to replace. The higher capacity is a function of their greater bandwidth, but in this case, the carriers are seeing the benefit of creating a hardware environment that can support this. Both Sprint and Verizon are making M2M modules a priority in their respective introductions of new hardware.

M2M communications may sound a bit esoteric for many people, but this technology, if implemented properly, can save time and money, reduce downtime and promote more effective operations. This is because the new generation of M2M communications being brought on line by Axeda and others allows things like real-time monitoring of devices, and in many cases, real-time remote operation. If your support team has the responsibility of providing support for devices, it helps them be more effective if they can diagnose any problems and even make adjustments without having to visit the remote site.

I recently attended an annual meeting of an electric utility that is using this capability to monitor and manage its substations without having to visit them in person. And when something breaks that does require a maintenance visit, they know what's broken, and what they'll need to do to fix it. This capability exists across industries and it can harness the capabilities of a broad number of support and maintenance people. The new 4G communications means that these devices now have the ability to do more in real time, at a lower cost than they could in the past.

I know it's not very sexy to talk about making maintenance easier and cheaper, and reducing downtime and staff costs, but this is a direct impact on your bottom line.

Verizon Wireless and Sprint are both working to make adopting M2M communications as easy for your business as possible. You can find out more about what Sprint is up to here, and you can learn more about Verizon Wireless' M2M initiative here, and you can learn about Verizon's LTE roll-out plans here. With the broad availability of 4G networks globally, this capability could be a significant cost savings to your company, while also improving your competitiveness.


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