M2M Comms: The white space between WAN and LAN

Whitespace radio looks well positioned to fill some of the gaps between WAN cellular machine to machine communications and LAN short range wireless machine to machine communications.


IMS Research (acquired by IHS, Inc.)In our smart cards in M2M report that we published in 2011, IMS Research projected that the volume of SIM cards shipped into cellular modules used for machine to machine comms would be more that 350 million per year by the end of the decade. However, TV whitespace communications could present a threat to this nascent market.

Although it will take a number of years for the market to develop, whitespace radio does look well positioned to fill some of the gaps between WAN cellular machine to machine communications and LAN short range wireless (e.g. ZigBee, Bluetooth Smart) machine to machine communications. At present there is little requirement for a SIM in whitespace solutions (or room to absorb the cost), and so should whitespace solutions take significant market share, it would be a dent in the prospects of a substantial SIM card market developing in this application.

That being said it’s my view that the threat is limited. This big applications for SIM cards in cellular modules include those that require wide area mobile networks, such as those for automotive and asset tracking. These are applications where it would be tough for whitespace to break into unless some large operators throw a lot of money at developing nationwide whitespace networks. It’s unlikely many car manufacturers would risk using a whitespace radio solution when there is at present no guarantee that nationwide whitespace networks will be rolled out. Cellular based solutions would be a much safer bet!

In more static applications, the potential for whitespace is stronger. Another big application for SIM cards in M2M cellular modules would be in utility meters. This kind of application would be more suited to a whitespace network. It’s quite easy to imagine a utility provider rolling out a whitespace solution on a local bases in order to provide a WAN network for smart metering applications. It wouldn’t need to be a nationwide network and without the mobility requirement, network planning would be more predictable. However, again it’s my view that there would still be many challenges for whitespace here. The application is already very crowded in terms of wired and wireless solutions aimed at addressing this issue. Whitespace’s late arrival in this market, amplifies its challenges.

However, the potential for whitespace is still substantial. There are many WAN M2M applications where an embedded cellular module would be too expensive, and using an alternative short range wireless technology too prohibitive in terms of range. Examples include street lighting control, parking meter monitoring, oil rig/pipeline instrumentation, border control sensors, and road traffic safety systems. It’s applications such as these where whitespace is best positioned to carve out its market.

I’ll be exploring some of these issues and more at the upcoming M2M World Congress (http://www.m2mconference.com/index.html) which IMS Research is supporting. The M2M World Congress 2012 is one of the world's leading m2m conferences focusing on m2m applications for automotive, healthcare, asset and fleet management, manufacturing, security, retail point of sales, smart grid, smart metering, smart home and consumer electronics industry.

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