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As the markets for voice and data mature, carriers are looking to machine-to-machine communications (M2M) to become the new engine of growth. Through connectivity embedded in everyday objects such as lampposts, household appliances and even automobiles, M2M forms the backbone of the rapidly emerging Internet of Things, the blanket term for a worldwide network of IP-enabled devices communicating with each other.

Increasingly, 4G LTE is playing a key role in the rise of M2M, which isn’t surprising given its material advantages over 3G in terms of speed and spectrum utilization. LTE is already well-known as a fast data pipe, but its uses are diverse, covering M2M transmissions for cars and HD voice for consumers, as well as out-of-band management through all-in-one appliances such as the Opengear IM7200 Infrastructure Manager.

LTE helps spur renewed interest in M2M space from carriers and manufacturers

There’s major opportunity for speed and security upgrades in the M2M ecosystem. Many of them currently sport only Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or 2G/3G connectivity, perhaps with the thought that the technological minimum is sufficient for a market with such low average revenue per user.

The tide may be changing, though, as new devices with time- and life-critical functionalities, such as medical sensors and automobiles, come to market. Automakers such as General Motors have made waves by embedding LTE into newer models. GM executive Mary Chan told CNET that 98 percent of customers with LTE-equipped cars activated a free 3GB/3 month trial.

In addition to fast connectivity for laptops, phones and other devices that can connect to it via a wireless hot spot, LTE service in a car provides an efficient, secure way to transmit regular reports and receive over-the-air system updates. These same attributes make it ideal for medical equipment that may become part of the IoT, even if its coverage footprint isn’t ubiquitous yet.

“There’s no insurance company that will rely on a [wearable device with a] Bluetooth connection to an Android phone for [security and authentication],” stated Eran Eshed, co-founder and vice president at Altair Semiconductor, according to Light Reading “The challenge today is [LTE] coverage.”

Eshed’s firm is currently at work on an LTE-only modem designed for M2M applications. Previously, Altair Semiconductor supplied Verizon with a similar chip for the carrier’s Ellipsis tablet.

Strong outlook for LTE-enabled M2M communications

With LTE providing greater speed and reliability for endpoints, the M2M market is primed for expansion. A study from ReportsnReports predicted a compound annual growth rate of 21 percent from 2014 to 2020, leading to $196 billion in revenue by 2020.

LTE connections are expected to outgrow the market as a whole. They may increase 90 percent over the next six years, ultimately totaling 210 million. Compared to other forms of wireless connectivity, LTE can much better handle bandwidth-intensive tasks such as video surveillance and remote diagnostics reporting.

Similarly, it has unique benefits for OOB management. Technicians can use an Opengear solution with built-in 3G and 4G LTE for smart failover and troubleshooting, even when the primary network goes down. Data center infrastructure can be closely and securely monitored, reducing the mean time to repair during outages.