For many years, users of the US Cellular network lacked options when it came to selecting a cellular 3G/4G modem, gateway or router for wireless data acquisition and remote monitoring applications. For organizations that were using the US Cellular network, the lack of “certified” devices was a potential barrier to launching M2M or mobility projects using a public network backbone. Well, the wait is over. For those clients who have been looking for a reliable US Cellular cell modem option for in-vehicle usage or for SCADA, distribution automation or other types of industrial automation, the wait is over. US Cellular has certified the Sierra Wireless AirLink GX450 and the ES450 for use on the US Cellular network as of July 15th, 2015 and the devices are available and shipping now. See them both below.
It is official: Sierra Wireless will cease production of the AirLink GX440 in that not too distant future. The Sierra Wireless GX440 is sunsetting at the end of 2015. Last buy for the GX440 will be Dec. 31st, 2015. Last shipment will be June 30, 2016. Why the six month differential between last buy and last shipment? Because Sierra Wireless is most likely going to allow phased purchase orders is our interpretation. The replacement product for the GX440 is the GX450. The time to start planning for your company’s migration to the GX450 is now. For a summary description of the differences between the GX440 and the GX450, visit this link.
Part of managing a 4G cellular wireless modem or router deployment is keeping up with firmware releases and understanding what each firmware release means to the stability/functionality of your 4G cellular platform. Recently it came to light that for the following CradlePoint routers, with GPS enabled, using the VZW LTE chipset, memory corruption could occur that would compromise performance of the routers. Read the important bulletin about this issue here.
What this bulletin does not say is why it is critical to make that update. The answer is that if the update is not performed, the CradlePoint Router can be bricked. The modem flash can become corrupt after a period of months if the GPS functionality is enabled. This can eventually cause the modem firmware to be overwritten on the device. When this happens, if the device is rebooted or power cycled, the modem will not come back up afterward. And since there is typically only a year warranty on CradlePoint devices, you really don’t want this to happen. CradlePoint urges that any organization using the following devices performs the radio firmware update:
I had a front row seat on the development of a very unique MIMO 2G/3G/4G/LTE/XLTE antenna for fixed-point cellular connectivity. What has been created, and is currently in pre-production is a slim line MIMO antenna assembly that has been designed to easily fit on the top of a NEMA utility cabinet, or other type of enclosure, requiring that only one hole be drilled, not two. As I have blogged about previously, in order to optimize the speeds of an LTE antenna, there needs to be two antenna fixtures attached to the LTE router/gateway/modem. That is because LTE is a true “multiple-in-multiple out” technology and requires two fixtures to be in use simultaneously for an optimized performance. In the past, with 3G cellular network devices, I really did not advocate for the diversity antenna for every installation. In the 3G world, the addition of the diversity antenna meant a very incremental change in connectivity that was not always noticeable in real-world performance for the router or gateway. However, having seen extensive bench tests showing the differences in speeds and feeds for LTE routers using one antenna versus two antennas, the clear answer is that two antennas make very noticeable difference in performance. Below see pictures of the new antenna and how it has been carefully designed to take up very little real estate when mounted. The narrow, oblong shape of this LTE antenna allows for this antenna to mount to the top of most standard NEMA enclosures or environmental cabinets used by utility companies and other energy companies. This single device can replace the current status quo, which is mounting two “stubby” or “salt and pepper shaker” form factor antennas. This is an early look at this device, which will be made available by Mobile Mark. Once the costing has been formalized and a part number has been assigned, the antenna will be made available. For now an engineering sample can be ordered using the part number EDN324. If interested, make an inquiry here referencing that part.
Although the new Sierra Wireless AirLink GX450 was known to be in the works for some time, the Sierra Wireless product team packed in some surprises when they released it. For instance, a month in advance, It was common knowledge that the new unit would support AWS/XLTE. It was also a well known fact that the GX450 would support, come Q3 2015, carrier delineation by software (when the ALEOS upgrade that will make it possible is released). What a boon to all! One GX450, in a few months, will be able to be either VZW, Sprint or AT&T. Telecom managers everywhere are rejoicing at this prospect! However, no one knew about the big surprise: the fact that Sierra Wireless was releasing the GX450 device with a 3 year warranty instead of a 5 year warranty. The option to buy a full 5 year uplift exists, but the standard warranty term is now 3 years.
“Wait a minute! Doesn’t Sierra Wireless AirLink stand behind their product any more?” some readers may be asking. Well that was my first impulse as well, until I looked carefully at the price-points. The price for the GX450 WITH the full 5 year warranty is the same as the GX440 with the 5 year warranty. The price for the GX450 with the 3 year warranty is $100 less than the GX440. Now this makes sense. While many critical infrastructure clients expect a 5-7 year lifecycle out of their cellular gateways, some clientele in the M2M space who are more attuned to “speeds and feeds” than the SCADA crowd, cycle their units in 2-3 years. So Sierra Wireless AirLink is making a play for that demographic. That only makes sense as IOT and a whole new world of applications for cellular gateways emerges on the horizon.
Check out the specifications for the new, Verizon Wireless LTE/XLTE Sierra Wireless GX450 (part number 1102326) here.
Supply chain managers are constantly looking for innovative ways to do more with less. In the cellular space one sticking point for enterprise procurement strategies is the fact that for most product cellular modem/gateway/router product lines, there is not an option to buy a single device and have it operate on all three major carrier networks (Sprint, Verizon & AT&T).
Today I’d like to write about one cellular modem that can, indeed, be used for all three carrier networks. The single device that is compatible with all three public carrier networks is the CalAmp Vanguard 3000.
HOW IT WORKS
The CalAmp Vanguard 3000 uses a Qualcomm GOBI radio module that is software delineated as to which carriers networks it will use. The cellular carrier can be selected any time after purchase. What this means is that the end-user can select which carrier (Sprint, VZW, or AT&T) that will be the network associated with the device. Although, the Vanguard 3000 can, in practice, be activated with live data plans for all three major US carriers, the most common scenario is that the device is provisioned for one carrier only at the time of deployment.
WHY THIS MATTERS
There are only two part numbers for the Vanguard 3000. There are not separate part number variants for every carrier and carrier combination. The adaptability of the CalAmp Vanguard 3000 makes for an easier-to-manage supply chain since only one part needs to be warehoused. This type of flexibility has other benefits. If corporate telecommunication contracts undergo a major change–for example, one carrier is supplanted by another on a corporate level–there is no need to buy all new cellular modems. The Vanguard 3000 can be provisioned for a different carrier and does not need to be replaced.
3G ONLY TODAY
Today the CalAmp Vanguard 3000 is available only for 3G networks. This is more than sufficient for many remote data acquisition applications but is not appropriate for high-bandwidth applications like video monitoring. To learn more about the CalAmp Vanguard 3000, in both its iterations (140-7230-110 and the 140-7230-000), click here.
I have heard, from the engineers that I work with, XLTE disparaged as a “marketing term.” However, for the record, I find it is aptly named–as it is, indeed, extra LTE spectrum that Verizon wireless is building out to enhance their current 4G network. In markets where standard LTE performance is hindered as the network hits “critical mass,” Verizon in adding AWS to its bag of tricks so that the overall user experience will be better across the board. Does XLTE matter to ever user, everywhere? No. Does XLTE add more bandwidth in markets that risk saturation? Yes. All, in all, good for VZW for rolling out XLTE. But now on to the practical nuts-and-bolts matters involved in wireless solution building. As more companies begin to evaluate whether to start testing modems, cellular gateways and cellular routers that incorporate the AWS XLTE spectrum it is good to know a source for antennas that cover the 2G, 3G, 4G LTE and XLTE (AWS) bands. XLTE rubber duck dipole antennas, mini rubber ducks dipole antennas, and two high-gain mast antennas that support XLTE can be procured here. At our test bench in a very small city, we were surprised to discover, when testing these AWS band antennas, that XLTE had already reached us.
The first shipments of the new Sierra Wireless AirLink Raven XT have arrived. At this time, I’d like to save a lot of instrumentation and control specialists a lot of worry by sharing a product comparison photo. Since many clients are OEMs that designed their instrumentation cabinets around the footprint of the AirLink Raven XT, the photograph above verifies the same form factor has been utilized on both the legacy V2227 and G2263 as well as the V2229T. I am also happy to confirm that the same AC and DC power adapter can be used, as well as the same mounting bracket. In summary, it is possible to pull out a failed Raven XT from your existing assembly and replace it with the new V2229T as long as the antenna you deployed contains spectrum for 3G.
As a member of my geographical region’s clean tech business interest group, I am often asked about the role of wireless data communications in clean tech initiatives. Many times I find myself defending the inclusion of wireless data communications technology in the clean tech playbook. I firmly believe that wireless data is a catalyst to clean tech. On an elementary level, wireless data vastly reduces truck rolls, which in turn, reduces pollution emissions and the number of vehicles on the road. In the not-to-distant past, before field-based assets were truly connected, the only way to to acquire data was moving a field technician to the scene. Now it is possible not only to obtain data, but to exert control on a field-based asset remotely. Thus, the negatives associated with vehicular transportation are mitigated.
In addition, because clean tech is heavily data-driven, the real-time data acquisition enabled by wireless data networks allows many other clean tech solutions to be viable. In order to propagate this message, I am going to be blogging about how a cellular modem can be integrated with an EV vehicle charger in a uniquely clean tech application.
I look forward to sharing more updates about this project as it progresses.