Sweden's Tele2 is claiming to be the first operator in Europe to publicly launch a 4G offering aimed specifically at M2M and Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
The service is designed for customers requiring much more bandwidth or shorter response times than are typically available on 2G and 3G networks.
Examples of target applications include CCTV with HD streaming, infotainment systems in cars and "connected advertisements," says Tele2 AB (Nasdaq: TLTO).
The Swedish operator believes that US service provider AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is the only other operator internationally to have made a public announcement about the availability of a 4G service for the M2M and IoT markets.
Even so, 4G momentum is clearly building. Although 2G is still the dominant M2M technology today, 4G is set to replace it as the preferred standard in future, according to analyst firm Infonetics Research.
Other experts are in broad agreement. Machina Research has been arguing since late 2013 that LTE will become the main cellular M2M technology by 2022 as device costs fall and networks become more pervasive.
Machina reckons LTE will account for about two thirds of all M2M modules used in cellular networks in 2022, up from as little as 0.5% in 2013.
"Right now, 95% of applications are 2G, 3G, low-data-consuming applications but it's changing," says Viktor Wallström, Tele2's head of public relations. "As we use different and new kinds of applications for M2M services, 4G will be the only way to go."
Among the benefits of 4G over 2G and 3G listed by Tele2 are higher speeds, more stable data connections, shorter response times and better coverage through a greater range of spectrum.
Operators in Europe have typically used 900MHz and 1800MHz frequencies to support 2G services, while 4G is being deployed across a range of bands, including 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2.6GHz.
Wallström acknowledges that in markets where 4G networks are less developed, 2G and 3G will continue to hold sway for the time being. "In Sweden, Tele2's 4G infrastructure is extremely efficient and the production cost per gigabyte is actually lower than on our 3G network," he tells Light Reading.
Tele2 sees M2M as a strategic priority, having set up a dedicated M2M business in late 2013.
Indicating at the time that it would look to compete heavily on pricing, the operator soon afterwards announced a partnership with M2M software developer Jasper Wireless Inc. , which has cloud services that are now used by some of the world's biggest operators, including AT&T and Telefónica .
Since then, it has formed M2M alliances with a range of other players, and in December it flagged a tie-up with high-profile module maker Telit . The two companies are planning to develop new connectivity offerings for small and midsized enterprises. (See Tele2, Cubic Telecom Team Up for M2M and Tele2, NetComm Forge M2M Partnership.)
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading