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Metal Machine Music: Dedicated M2M Networks on Horizon

Dan Jones

Do wirelessly enabled cars, sensors, and other devices need their own dedicated network, free from human-generated data packets?

Maybe so -- there are a least a couple of companies betting that machines talking to other machines could use their own dedicated radio networks for M2M communication. M2M traffic generally travels over operators' cellular networks, but some companies are now moving to develop dedicated networks for M2M communications. (See GSMA Predicts 250 Million M2M Connections in 2014.)

M2M Spectrum Networks LLC has said that it plans to create a purpose-built network across the US for machine-to-machine communications. "We will cover the top 200 cities in the US before year-end and have secured two pilot customers we are conducting trials with in the second quarter of this year," Doreen Trant, senior vice president of network implementation.

The network is expected to cover 75% of the US population by the end of 2015, and 95% by the end of 2016. The operator has various partnering deals with companies such as Commdex, Crown Castle, Raveon, TrueNet, 4G Unwired, and Powder River to deploy the network.

"Our network is unique in that we have aggregated under-utilized spectrum coupled with our technology that will provide a very efficient and secure network with inter-operable capabilities," she notes.

The operator is using "Part 90 licensed spectrum" and "purpose-built cognitive radios" to create the network. That means there are multiple frequency bands that could be used as part of the deployment.

M2M Spectrum isn't the only company working towards an M2M-specific network that could support signals from connected cars, smart sensors, RFID tags, and more. Rutberg & Co. noted that French startup Sigfox has grabbed just over $20 million in recent VC funding to develop a low-cost, energy-efficient "ultra-narrowband" cellular network dedicated to the Internet of Things. (See Mobile VC Tops $1B in March Madness.)

Sigfox is even more ambitious than M2M Spectrum. It states that it wants to deploy in 60 countries over the next five years.

By the way, although the terms "M2M" and "The Internet of Things" are often used somewhat interchangeably, there's been some debate from Telefonica and Axeda about the differences recently.

The Internet of Things is a grander concept than machine-to-machine, looking at a future where virtually everything is networked and communicating. Machine-to-machine, however, is the baseline communications concept that underpins the growth of IoT.

Whatever we end up calling them, Light Reading likes to imagine that machine-specific communications will sound a bit like this.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
4/21/2014 | 6:10:10 AM
Looks like TrueNet was already listed as a partner, but the pair made it official with a release today: http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/1861354. Not much additional detail on the network tech though.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
4/15/2014 | 1:00:15 PM
Re: Why a new network?
Another one: how will they address international apps? Roaming deals? Think any operator would want to hook up with them abroad?
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/15/2014 | 10:52:28 AM
Re: Why a new network?
All good questions...
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
4/15/2014 | 10:45:43 AM
Why a new network?
I'm not sure I see the need for a separate M2M network. The point of M2M, and the reason operators are so interested, is that most devices use very little data, so it doesn't tax the network. It's only upside in additional revenue for them. If the connections become too much, it could harm the consumer experience, but is there a real concern that will happen?
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