& cplSiteName &

Does M2M Need LTE?

Dan Jones

LTE-focused chip designer Altair Semiconductor is betting that a 4G-only modem is a big part of the future of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.

M2M sensors, RFID badges, and tracking tags have typically used short-range radio technology like Zigbee, Bluetooth, and WiFi for connectivity. Carriers, meanwhile, have mostly focused on 2G and 3G networks for M2M applications, figuring that most situations don't require particularly high-data rates.

The need to avoid truck rolls every few years to upgrade or replace sensors will soon push carriers, utilities, and vendors towards LTE, however, argues Eran Eshed, co-founder and VP of marketing at Altair Semiconductor . "In the M2M space you need to guarantee network longevity, or it's a non-starter," he states.

To that end, Altair is working on an LTE-only modem -- the ALT100M -- for the M2M market in anticipation of more focus on "Internet of Things" devices using 4G. "I'd say that you'll see products selling in the market next year," Eshed says of the coming silicon.

Eshed adds that the M2M market has some particular requirements when it comes to comms chips:

  • The silicon needs to be cheap. The Altair modem is expected to be in sniffing distance of WiFi prices, which could mean $10 or less.
  • M2M silicon doesn't need massive throughput. Altair is targeting 10 Mbit/s or much less and optimizing the chip to "sleep" between "bursty" transmissions to lessen power requirements.
  • Eshed says Altair is working to make the modem as easy for vendors to integrate with the rest of the silicon as possible.

As far as applications go, the sky's the limit. Eshed is looking at everything from medical sensors to vending machines to automotive applications.

The security and authentication baked into the LTE standard will be particularly important for medical monitoring applications. "There's no insurance company that will rely on a [wearable with a] Bluetooth connection to an Android phone for that," Eshed argues.

The company is currently looking at automotive applications that use LTE connectivity for regular reports, rather than needing constant connectivity. "The challenge today is [LTE] coverage," Eshed says, while noting that the design cycles for actually building new communications into cars can be pretty lengthy, so coverage will become less of an issue over time.

"In the automotive space, what you work on today will be in the market in five years time," he says.

He also expects, however, that after-market plug-ins using LTE will be a significant market for connected cars. For instance, a driver could use an LTE monitor to report daily or weekly to an insurance company on how fast they drive, how often they brake, and other metrics. Good drivers could then get a better rate based on those real-world but not real-time metrics.

Eshed says that Altair's LTE-only strategy has been vindicated -- in part -- by the success of the Verizon Wireless Ellipsis 7 LTE-only tablet. Eshed says that he can't reveal exactly how many have been sold but that it is "a seven-digit figure."

Altair provided Verizon with a $30 LTE chip for the project. The operator has the own-brand tablet built by an Asian ODM and sells the tablet for $249.99 without a contract or $49.99 with a two-year agreement. (See CTIA: Verizon Pushes for Single-Mode LTE.)

"Our [LTE-only] strategy has remained the same and expanded," the CMO says. "But we don't have to explain or apologize anymore." (See Altair Raises $25M for Single-Mode LTE.)

In fact, he states, Altair is now ready to consider an IPO. "We're looking at going public next year," Eshed says.

To make a success of it though, the company has to stay out of the way of the 4G big daddy Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) and find new markets where its LTE-only strategy will work well, hence this latest push towards the burgeoning M2M market.

Altair is not the only chip company eyeing M2M as an opportunity. Sequans Communications has its StreamliteLTE system-on-a-chip aimed at IoT applications, for instance.

The IoT space, however, is so "fragmented and diverse" that it makes sense to deliver a cheap, easy-to-integrate modem for M2M applications so that vendors can use it as they wish, Eshed argues.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

(6)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/8/2014 | 3:54:29 PM
Re: M2M need for narrowband
Depends on the application obviosly and it's requirements. M2M devices still use dial up !


User Rank: Blogger
5/7/2014 | 5:09:55 PM
Re: M2M need for narrowband
Which one?


The benefit of what Sigfox is proposing is that it is built from the ground up to be a low-power connection. It's very ambitious to have a startup proposing to build a whole new international network though.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
5/7/2014 | 5:07:24 PM
Re: M2M need for narrowband
I wouldn't say it's less ambitious, but is it necessary?
User Rank: Blogger
5/7/2014 | 3:54:23 PM
Re: M2M need for narrowband
For sure, not everything will need LTE.

I'm not sure that building an entirely new and different network counts as any less ambitious than repurposing LTE for different applications though!
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
5/7/2014 | 3:49:34 PM
the network debate
This has been debated for awhile, mainly by companies like RACO Wireless that don't offer LTE. It seems that the majority of apps will only need 2G networks, but I can think of several that need or at least would benefit from 4G -- video, enterprise, in-car. Even so, 3G, even 2G will have its place for a long time to come (until those networks get sunsetted, at least.)
User Rank: Light Beer
5/7/2014 | 3:24:11 PM
M2M need for narrowband


There is a general tendency to focus only on faster and broader connections (3G, 4G and beyond). However a lot of M2M applications will need for very small amount of data that can be provided at a low cost and will consum very low power.

Have a look at Sigfox which is deplooying Ultra Narrow Band technology throughout several countries. See http://sigfox.com/en/

It is clear that not all M2M applications will need LTE or even will not be able to use LTE. 


Light Reading’s Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
Wednesday, October 26, 1:00PM EDT
Security: Tackling DDoS
Gary Sockrider, Principal Security Technologist, Arbor Networks
Friday, October 28, 1:00PM EDT
Security: The Plusses and Minuses of Open Source Software
Nick Feamster, Acting Director, Center for Information Technology Policy, Princeton University
Wednesday, November 16, 1:00PM EST
SDN 101
John Isch, Practice Director, Network & Voice, Orange Business Services
Friday, November 18, 1:00PM EST
SDN & Open Source
Christopher W. Rice, Senior Vice President of AT&T Labs, Domain 2.0 Architecture and Design
in association with:
From The Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
Next-Generation Technology Beyond DOCSIS 3.1

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Liu Jianhua speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Hybrid Video Solutions to Change TV, Change Future

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Ian Locke speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei Future-Oriented Giga Coax Network

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Allen Wang speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei at SCTE 2016

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join Alan Breznick of Light Reading and take a sneak peek at the Huawei booth at SCTE 2016.
LRTV Custom TV
Assuring Network Quality in a Rapidly Changing Environment

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

As the rate of change and complexity increases in agile networks, the importance of introducing DevOps methodologies for integrating active test and assurance solutions throughout the full service lifecycle becomes critical to ensure that customers are experiencing the service quality they demand. The industry landscape is changing, and software-based test and ...
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
A10 Networks on Service Providers' Industry Needs

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Light Reading's Steve Saunders hears how A10 enables service providers to accelerate, secure and optimize their application delivery to drive down costs, enhance service availability, and better respond to customer requirements, so they can improve customer satisfaction, monetize their network, and grow revenues.
LRTV Custom TV
New NFV Use Cases for Cable TV

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

A large number of NFV use cases are focused on the enterprise domain, looking at virtualization of customer-premises equipment (CPE). To date, there has been little focus on the use cases and business case for virtualization of the video content delivery networks required to deliver unicast and streaming video to consumers. Amdocs commissioned Analysys Mason to ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Meet the Future Workforce: New Faces, Expectations & Motivations

10|19|16   |   5:33   |   (1) comment

Millennials and their younger peers, Gen Z, expect more out of their network and more out of their work. Intel's Lynn Comp shares how the industry can prepare for this new generation of workers.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE Global Services User Congress 2016 Highlights

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

ZTE held its 2nd Global Service User Conference in Dusseldorf on October 13-14. Representatives from network operators, leading industry analysts and ZTE senior expertsattended the event, exploring the best practice in managed services and the vision to transform network operations into the operations center of the future (OpCF) in the software-defined networking ...
LRTV Custom TV
Cliff Grossner on Cloud & Network Synergy From Carrier Service

10|18|16   |     |   (0) comments

Local carriers offer the collaborated cloud and network service that benefits from their understanding of the regulations operating in different vertical markets.
In this interview, Cliff Grossner from IHS Technology talks about how this advanced service can support business agility and flexibility.
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX: Live from SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2016

10|17|16   |     |   (0) comments

Cyrille Morelle, VeEX's President and CEO, talks with Light Reading's Alan Breznick live from the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2016. They discuss DOCSIS 3.1 technology, deployments and early lessons learned. New products on display include the CX350s-D3.1, CX380s-D3.1, CX310, AT2500-3G, FX150 OTDR and MTT WiFI Air Expert.
LRTV Custom TV
Smith Micro's Carrier-Grade WiFi Component

10|17|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join Carol Wilson of Light Reading as she interviews the CTO of Smith Micro, Dave Sperling.
Upcoming Live Events
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 1, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
Verizon Wants More Data on Yahoo Breach
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 10/20/2016
US Issues Total Flight Ban on Samsung Note 7
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 10/15/2016
Oh Snap! Qualcomm Unveils X50, Its First 5G Modem
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 10/17/2016
Telecom Italia Plots Digital 'Overlay,' Not Transformation
Iain Morris, News Editor, 10/17/2016
Rogers Says See Ya to CEO Laurence
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 10/17/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
There's no question that, come 2020, 5G technology will turn the world's conception of what mobile networking is on its head. Within the world of 5G development, Dr. ...
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

A vital part of increasing the number of women in comms is transforming the ways companies can support and empower women. While progressive company policies that support both men and women in achieving work-life balance are a step in the right direction, creating a company culture that supports those policies can at times be more challenging.

During this show, we'll talk to Lynn Comp, Senior Director of Industry and Sales Enabling (ISE) in the Network Platforms Group at Intel, about why those challenges exist and how companies can overcome them. She'll provide insight into how Intel has worked to create a culture that supports work-life balance, and provide steps and guidance for other companies wishing to do the same. We will also leave plenty of time to get your questions answered live on the air.