How to use 3G wireless networks

Sierra Wireless Malcolm Thom outlines several scenarios for the deployment of 3G wireless networks.

While existing machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions have been well served by 2G wireless networks, the recent advent of 3G wireless wide area networks operating at broadband data speeds offers new possibilities for companies looking to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace, reports Sierra Wireless’s Malcolm Thom.

ABI Research anticipates the adoption of 3G wireless technology is expected to grow at an annual growth rate of over 100% by 2013. This rapid growth of 3G wireless broadband combined with M2M technology will impact how companies conduct future business.

Today, M2M products and applications are often used for exception-based reporting, remote data collecting and scheduled system monitoring. M2M equipment deployments are generally characterised by low data transfer requirements (typically less than 100 KB per report or transaction), reducing operation costs and simplifying interfaces to the remote site equipment.

Unlike 2G M2M where low data rates and cost sensitivity drive the design, 3G wireless engines can deliver at rates up to 7.2 Mbps on the downlink and 2.0 Mbps on the uplink with future enhancements in the works. This provides a significant advantage to organisations that require real-time access to information in numerous vertical markets including:

  • Mobile Data public safety - field force automation, fleet management, mobile enterprise, asset tracking.

  • Utilities/automation electric-  oil and gas, water.

  • Infrastructure surveillance - disaster recovery, intelligent transportation, remote monitoring.

  • Financial  point of sale - ATM and kiosk connectivity.

By using 3G M2M wireless technologies, companies are able to experience seamless, consistent two-way communication to review inventory databases, conduct store transfers, and track product shipments efficiently and effectively. For example, a handheld point-of-sale terminal utilising broadband allows for wireless sales transactions to take place in environments where traditional cashier stations are not feasible, including delivery operations, tradeshows and outdoor events. Another use for 3G high bandwidth is video, which has a range of potential applications from security to brand marketing. The 3G connectivity can enable richer content, including video to be sent to remote information displays or to vending machines. Exception-based video can be added to both fixed and mobile systems to relay images when an alarm is tripped or a panic button is activated.

One of the key issues facing broadband M2M is the lack of interface standards, whether in the remote hardware or software, the network layer or the host site. Increasing awareness of broadband M2M may ultimately lead to standardisation and complementary technologies being developed in tandem. Hurdles to widespread broadband M2M adoption are also largely driven by organisations’ struggle to measure the return on investment. When considering M2M wireless application adoption, companies should note that the extent of investments includes improved efficiency, reduced operational costs and the ability to access real-time information. Lack of in-house expertise and knowledge can be another barrier to deployment. A collaborative multidisciplinary approach that involves wireless design, integration, original equipment manufacturers and carrier certification is fundamental to any successful M2M project.

Broadband M2M offers industrial and enterprise customers the opportunity to reduce operating costs and improve efficiency, and the wide range of applications that can benefit from the addition of wireless technology is growing every day.

Malcolm Thom is the ANZ country manager for Sierra Wireless. While working with Rockwell International, a supplier to both the automotive and aerospace industries, Thom was involved with the commercial launch of mobile satellite and GPS vehicle location systems and worked in Europe.

Read more on Wireless networking