Network access decisions play an important role in the design process of any cellular-enabled M2M application. Whether building a stationary smart meter or vehicle tracking unit, cellular-network access technology can dramatically affect the size, range, performance, and most importantly, cost of a device. Whether weighing either side of the GSM versus CDMA argument or looking into what the future will hold for 2G, 3G, and even 4G networks, OEMs have plenty of network options to consider, each ideally suited to distinct application requirements.
In breaking down which network access technology is best for a particular solution, it’s important to know the fundamental differences in each. Second generation (2G) networks are the most widely deployed in the world which allows for broader coverage across regions, improving mobility and reliability of applications. As a legacy standard, 2G caters to a wider selection of proven low-cost components sized to fit the smallest device housings. 2G enabled devices are capable of supporting voice and data traffic within the 10 to 100kbps range, ample bandwidth for most current M2M applications.
Under the 2G umbrella, OEMs have the option of designing for GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) or CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) technologies. GSM is the global standard for cellular networks and has been adopted widely across geographies. While CDMA is not as popular in Europe, it can be a good option in North America and Asia. Within the US, CDMA is widely considered to have an advantage in network coverage and reliability, boasting quality of service benefits over GSM - this holds especially true in rural sections of the country, though GSM is quickly catching up. Developing for either access technology offers unique cost advantages for OEMs. While GSM components are less expensive, pricing on CDMA M2M service plans can provide better savings over time.
Though not as widely available as 2G, newer 3G networks and devices support faster, bandwidth-heavy data traffic making them ideal for certain M2M verticals that require distribution of large amounts of data or video, as is the case with security. The limited coverage provided by these networks also makes them better suited for stationary M2M applications deployed within a 3G footprint. On the equipment side, components are generally larger and more expensive, increasing the size and overall cost of an application. Higher bandwidth data plans also result in additional service costs, though carriers are slowly warming to the idea of offering discounted M2M rates in exchange for long-term data contracts. As 4G, or Long Term Evolution (LTE), cellular networks proliferate, these same advantages and disadvantages will certainly apply.
In the interest of protecting our customers’ investment in network access technology, Telit Wireless Solutions has pioneered a unique module design concept that helps ensure application longevity while providing flexibility for growth into new network geographies. Without incurring costly redesigns, Telit’s Unified Form Factor integration concept enables customers to design an application once and deploy across different network technologies simply by swapping out modules within the same product family. By leveraging similar connectors, software programming, and physical specifications in each network-specific module, Telit reduces the risk associated with access technology selection.
Whether you choose a 2G or a 3G solution, it is becoming increasingly clear that the advantages of connecting remote devices via M2M technologies are becoming a way for companies to differentiate their products and enable new revenue models or increased productivity of their remote assets.
For more insight into Telit’s Unified Form Factor design concept or questions about pricing, availability, and other unique product features found in Telit’s entire line of M2M cellular modules, visit Telit on www.SemiconductorStore.com or contact Symmetry Electronics at 866-506-8829.