The early uptake of LTE will be driven by communications between machines, according to speakers at this year’s Mobile World Congress.
Alex Sinclair, chief technology officer of the GSM Association, said: “The industry’s next wave of growth is applying mobile to things. We can apply mobile technology to do things for society in other industries such as transport, health, utilities and smart grids.”
Hakan Eriksson, chief technology officer of Ericsson, said: “We’re about to build an invisible connectivity layer over a large part of the world and we can only start to imagine what devices could be built to run on this global multimegabit connection.”
Equipment supplier Ericsson is among those who believe that global mobile networks will eventually support 50 billion devices, most of them machines communicating with machines.
“This will give sustainability advantages,” he said. “Many vertical industries would benefit from the inclusion of an embedded communications module.”
The good news for operators, according to Eriksson, is that many of these devices will generate revenue, rather than demanding increased capacity. He gave the example of a GPS tag for a sail boat, with a GSM connection to tell the owner when the boat drifts, or is taken, from a fixed position in harbour: owners will happily pay almost the same as a mobile broadband subscription for a connection to a device from which they hope never to hear.
Dick Lynch, chief technology officer of Verizon Wireless, which has committed to launching LTE networks this year, said the first devices his company would offer would be dongles for laptops.
Lynch said that there was a tremendous amount of interest in deploying LTE for machine to machine communications: “Many potential device manufacturers want start off with LTE,” because they plan to sell equipment, for example in to the consumer market, which will be in place for years.
Vivrek Badrinath, chair of the Next Generation Mobile Networks group, pointed out that it was vital to fine-tune the interfaces between devices and the network to make the most of the increased bandwidth available.
Frederic Pujol, mobile broadband practice manager for French market analysts iDate, said he expects quite a high proportion of the forecast 380 million LTE subscriptions taken out by 2015 to be for machine to machine communications.