Antenna Systems & Technology - Fall 2013 - (Page 8)
Exponential M2M Market Growth Calls for Innovative
RF and Antenna Solutions
By Jeff Shamblin, Chief Scientist • Ethertronics
For vendors in the machine-to-machine (M2M) market, the best of times, including the major market opportunity for exponential growth does not come without challenge. M2M connections are growing 26 percent annually and are on track to top 450 million worldwide by
2018, according to a new ABI Research report. But the revenue those connections generate is plummeting.
“The market for M2M connections can be classified as very competitive to hyper-competitive depending on
the country,” said Dan Shey, the report’s author. “As a result, connection ARPUs have declined dramatically
over the last two years as operators fight for M2M business.”
Declining ARPU means mobile operators and other M2M ecosystem members are looking for every opportunity to wring out costs to ensure profitability. That quest puts enormous pressure on M2M vendors to
provide modules and other products that are as inexpensive as possible.
The good news is that this pressure comes on the heels of a growing selection of RF solutions that enable
vendors to meet pricing expectations without sacrificing performance or their bottom line. In fact, antenna
systems are the ideal place to innovate because they’re critical not only for performance and reliability, but
also because they directly affect the cost of both developing M2M products and providing M2M services.
Tough Times Get Tougher
To understand why, it helps to start by looking at why it’s so
challenging to design antennas for M2M applications. One factor
is that space is limited and shrinking. Smartphones and tablet form factors keep getting thinner, which is why the amount
of interior space for antennas has been shrinking by 25 percent annually. Although M2M modules frequently are inside
large equipment such as vending machines, that doesn’t mean
there’s ample room for antennas.
Finding enough room for one or more antennas gets even more
difficult if the M2M application uses lower frequencies, such as 400 MHz, 700 MHz and 900 MHz, because
those antennas are physically longer. And regardless of the antenna’s length, the space available often is
in a less-than-ideal location, such as surrounded by parts that block signals or components that spew RFI.
Another location factor is the place where the M2M module is installed. For example, utility meters often
are installed in underground vaults, while vending machines typically are deep inside buildings, away from
windows. Those locations attenuate signals, making it difficult to maintain a reliable, high-performance
connection. That problem affects costs for the M2M customer, such as having to send someone to read the
meter manually. If it’s a widespread problem, the operator might have to increase the density of its cell
sites to remain competitive in the M2M market. The CapEx and OpEx of dozens, hundreds or thousands of
additional cell sites makes it difficult for the operator to price its M2M services competitively yet profitably.
On top of everything, M2M modules frequently are in environments that continually changing in ways that
affect RF. For example, a utility meter installed in the summer might have no difficulty maintaining a connection, but when it’s blanketed with wet leaves in the fall and snow in winter, that connection becomes unreliable
or slow. When the end user or mobile operator has to troubleshoot that problem, it’s an additional expense.
In some M2M applications, there are even bigger things at stake, such as when a patient or caregiver holds
a telemedicine device in a way that de-tunes the antenna. That can prevent the device from sending critical information about a patient.
Antenna Systems & Technology Fall 2013
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Antenna Systems & Technology - Fall 2013
Exponential M2M Market Growth Calls for Innovative RF and Antenna Solutions
Managing Distributed Antenna Systems Effectively and Efficiently
Millimeter Wave Antenna Radome Systems for Satellite on the Move Applications
Test & Measurement
Antenna Systems 2013: Conference Preview
Addressing Customer Requirements in Public Safety Antennas
Antenna Systems & Technology - Fall 2013