Sierra Wireless AirLink ES440 Gateway–How Does It Compare?

After the longest soft-launch period I’ve ever seen, Sierra Wireless  has officially launched the AirLink ES440. This is Sierra Wireless’s custom-built product entry for lucrative the distributed  enterprise marketplace (think big box retail store automation). So how does the AirLink ES440 stack up against other entries in this vertical? For instance, are they duplicating the play of the big cellular player in this niche, CradlePoint?

The answer is no, Sierra Wireless has a different angle versus CradlePoint’s strategy. The ES440 is a cellular Ethernet/serial gateway, that is meant to hang off of a Cisco or Juniper router in pass-through mode. The Cisco or Juniper router has the brains in this topology, and makes the key network routing decisions. The ES440 presents itself to the router as gateway to the LTE network.  In comparison, CradlePoint has specialized in routers, not gateways, and designed their hardware with robust fail-over capabilities and integrated WLAN access points. These capabilities are redundant when used in conjunction with a Cisco router.

CradlePoint has just released their AER 2100, with edge routing capabilities into the market place. This is CradlePoint’s most sophisticated router yet, and this well-priced box will give Cisco a run for their money in mid-market accounts. With this product launch, CradlePoint has indicated that they must be taken very seriously in the router space.

But I digress.  Back to the Sierra Wireless AirLink ES440 comparison… There is something that the ES440 gateway has that many of its competitors don’t have, even though it is a pretty basic box. Sierra Wireless has thought through their sweet spot as a cellular gateway and added a serial port that supports reverse telnet for out of band management (OOBM). For large enterprises that want another method to manage their routers, the ES440 is designed to do exactly that. This ES440 is therefore symbiotic and complementary to the 800 pound router gorillas.

Well played, Sierra Wireless AirLink! See the AirLink ES440 specifications sheet here.

See info about the CradlePoint AER 2100 look here. 



Dual-Network Public/Private LTE Vehicle Router Is Correct Solution For One Municipality

A unified, interoperable, first responder network that is prioritized for public safety and other critical infrastructure entities is an idea worth working toward and fighting for. When achieved, this first responder network will bring a more sophisticated, coordinated, efficient response from our public safety agencies, and it will save lives and increase situational awareness during emergency events. Such a network is technically possible and actively being championed. Band 14 FirstNet is going to be implemented in service to this vision although the important questions, how and when, still have not been clearly answered.

For municipalities who won ARRA grant monies to be distributed by BTOP to build out private LTE 700MHz networks on Band 14, timing is now critical. With the grant monies set to expire in 2015, some municipalities are looking at their prized grant dollars going up in smoke, with no operational private LTE network to show for it.

In North Carolina, one such municipality has a strategy to move forward. Their strategy involves a procurement path that operates within the criteria of their BTOP grant funding and delivers a broadband solution to their critical infrastructure in the short term. This procurement involves procuring a hybrid Band 14 private LTE/public Band 17 or Band 13 mobile broadband gateway. The device will ship with public LTE today, but can be upgraded in the field with a Band 14 FirstNet modem upgrade kit in the future. Once both private and public LTE has been activated in this single mobile LTE vehicle router, it can failover between FirstNet and public LTE seamlessly.

For more information on one dual-network LTE vehicle router that we are confident will be supplying a FirstNet Band 14 upgrade kit, the CalAmp Fusion, visit this overview page

Wireless Data Project Acronym Glossary

Here is a compilation of popular acronyms used within the descriptions of many wireless data communication projects and whitepapers related to critical infrastructure wireless data communications. While many WWAN professionals know these technical abbreviations already, some of our colleagues that are new to the wireless data industry may find them useful.

  • 1xRTT            1x (single-carrier) Radio Transmission Technology
  • 2G                   2nd Generation mobile telecommunications
  • 3G                   3rd Generation mobile telecommunications
  • 3GPP               3 Generation Partnership Project
  • 4G                   4th Generation mobile telecommunications
  • APN                Access Point Name
  • B14                 Band Class 14
  • CMAS             Commercial Mobile Alert System
  • CONNMO       Connectivity Management Objects
  • dBm                Decibels referenced to one milliWatt (mW).
  • DCMO Device Capability Management Objects
  • DDR                Double Data Rate Random Access Memory (RAM)
  • DIAGMON     Diagnostics and Monitoring
  • DM                  Device Management
  • ECID               Enhanced Cell ID
  • EDR                Enhanced Data Rate
  • EVDO             Evolution-Data Optimized
  • FSB                 Front-side Bus
  • FUMO             Firmware Update Management Object
  • GB                   Gigabyte (Billions of Bytes)
  • GHz                 Gigahertz (Billions of Hertz)
  • GPS                 Global Positioning System
  • H                     High or Height
  • I/O                   Input/Output
  • IMS                 Internet Protocol Multimedia Subsystem
  • iOS                  Apple Mobile Operating System
  • IP                     Internet Protocol
  • IPv4                 Internet Protocol version 4
  • IPv6                 Internet Protocol version 6
  • ISIM                Internet Protocol IP Multimedia Services Identity Module
  • KB                   Kilobyte (Thousands of Bytes)
  • L2                    Microprocessor Level 2 Cache Memory
  • LAWMO         Lock and Wipe Management Object
  • LTE                 Long Term evolution
  • MHz                Megahertz (Millions of Hertz)
  • MIL-STD        U.S. Department of Defense Military Standard
  • MIMO             Multiple Input Multiple Output        
  • MMS               Multimedia Messaging Service; Multimedia Messaging Specification
  • MS                  Microsoft
  • mW                 MilliWatts (Thousandths of Watts)
  • OMA-DM       Open Mobile Alliance Device Management
  • OTDOA          Observed Time Difference of Arrival
  • P25                  Association of Public-Safety Communications Officers international (APCO) Project 25
  • PC                   Personal Computer
  • PCI                  Peripheral Component Interconnect
  • PDA                Personal Digital Assistant
  • PSCR              Public Safety Communications Research
  • PSST               Public Safety Spectrum Trust
  • RAM               Random Access Memory
  • RF                   Radio Frequency
  • RFP                 Request for Proposals
  • RJ-45              A Registered Jack 8 Position 8 Contact, (also 8 position 8 conductor) Modular Connector
  • SCOMO          Software Component Management Object
  • SD                   Secure Digital Flash Memory Card Format
  • SMS                Short Message Service
  • TFT                 Thin-Film Transistor
  • TS                   3GPP Specification Prefix
  • UE                   User Equipment
  • UI                    User interface
  • UICC               Universal Integrated Circuit Card
  • USB                Universal Serial Bus
  • USIM              Universal Subscriber Identity Module
  • VAC                Volts Alternating Current
  • VDC                Volts Direct Current
  • VGA                Video Graphics Array
  • W                    Wide or Width
  • WiFi                Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) Devices Based On IEEE 802.11 Standards
  • WLAN            Wireless Local Area Network           
  • WPA2             WiFi Protected Access Version 2
  • WSVGA          Wide Super Video Graphics Array
  • WVAN            Wireless Vehicular Area Network


Sierra Wireless AirLink GX440 Not Connecting? Here Is What It Could Be

The WWAN wireless community is looking for the final fixes for the Sierra Wireless AirLink GX440. Their have been more problems with the launch of this device than we would expect from Sierra Wireless, but it looks like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Today, I would like to address what the issue may be if your Sierra Wireless GX440 is hanging or constantly rebooting which prevents it from connecting to the network.

We have seen reboot conditions in GX440 before and would like to enumerate solutions depending on the root cause:

  1. A radio module going bad – this requires RMA to Sierra Wireless to replace the module.
  2. A radio module going into diagnostics mode – this is cleared by factory reset.
  3. Both issues above were corrected in the latest ALEOS + Radio Module firmware. Please confirm that your device has the latest version installed in their modems (4.3.3b.015 with MC7750/09 firmware), as this firmware should fix reboots due to 1 and 2
  4. A bad WiFi x-card can also cause the GX440 to reboot – Are you using the WiFi X-card? ( ). A fix would require RMA of the unit.


Sierra Wireless Raven X Power Issue

Recently, we have had reports regarding “blown” power supply circuitry with Sierra Wireless AirLink Raven X cellular gateways. Sierra Wireless states that this is a  known issue, albeit a small one, with the power supply circuit on the Raven X modems manifesting the issue in approximately 1% of all Raven X’s sold early-to-mid 2012.

NOTE:  Raven X’s with this issue may fail at any time. Some evidence points to the fact that higher supply voltage (24 Vdc versus 12 Vdc) stresses the faulty circuitry more and makes the issue more likely to manifest.

All modems exhibiting this issue should be returned to Sierra Wireless  and will be repaired at no charge under Sierra Wireless’s warranty program. The device will be repaired or the unit will be replaced.  The issue has be traced to a faulty component, so once the unit has been repaired, the issue will be mitigated.

This technical issue is very similar to an earlier power circuitry problem with the GX line that Sierra Wireless has since rectified.

Installing A SIM Into A Sierra Wireless GX400W Or GX440W With WiFi

Many of our clients who order Sierra Wireless AirLink GX400 or GX440 cellular gateways with WiFi (like these models 1101531,  1101691 ) find out the hard way that the SIM is very difficult to install. The SIM does not come pre-installed, and the process is not quick to perform. Do it incorrectly or incompetently and risk doing damage to the device itself.  I highly recommend opting to have the SIM installed at the time of sale. Companies like USAT Corp. do that service for a very nominal fee and it comes as a standard part of the device provisioning (DevProv+) professional services. However, if you find yourself in the situation of having to install the SIM yourself, know this key information:

The SIM slot is located on the front left (as you are looking at the side with the lights and the reset button) behind the plastic cover. To access the SIM slot on the device you must remove the plastic cover with a 2mm or 5/64” hexagon Allen wrench.

Step 1: Unplug your GX400/440 from power source.

Step 2: Remove the four hex screws on top of the unit (used to secure the black cover) using a 2mm or 5/64” size Allen (hex) wrench. Place screws in a safe spot, these screws will be used again.

Step 3: Remove the nut and washer from the front facing SMA connector using a 5/16 or 8mm socket torque wrench to a torque spec of 8in-lbs. Place nut and washer in a safe spot, these will be used again.

Step 4: Slide the top black cover off of the device.

Step 5: Install the SIM card with the gold contacts facing down and the cut-out facing to the right.

Re-Installing The Cover Plate

The cover has a tab to mechanically secure the SIM in place during extreme vibration. When replacing the cover:

Step 1: Install the black cover by lining up the SMA antenna connector with the hole in the cover, tilt the rear of the cover slightly to make sure the front bottom of the cover seats in the front ridge, and then push the top of the cover down.

Step 2: Re-install the 4 hex screws on top of the unit.

Step 3: Place the lock washer onto the SMA antenna connector and push to the face of the cover.

Step 4: Install then tighten nut with a 5/16 or 8mm socket torque wrench to a torque spec of 8in-lbs.

End-Of-Life For Sierra Wireless AirLink Raven X Sooner Than Expected

To borrow from Edgar Allen Poe, Quoth the raven, “nevermore”

Sierra Wireless has made it official this week that the AirLink Raven X line is going end-of-life (EOL) sooner than their past manufacturing roadmaps indicated. For Raven X the date for the last order placement has been pegged at June 30th 2013. For Raven XT (Verizon Wireless) the date is May 31st.  For Raven XE the date is August 31st.

The Sierra Wireless AirLink Raven X, XT, and XT has long been the standard for M2M cell modems in use for Smart Grid applications in the U.S.A..  Sierra Wireless has released the Sierra Wireless AirLink LS300 (1101489, 1101490, 1101491) cell modem as a replacement for this line and many of utility industry clients are currently testing it. Feedback has been good so far, but change is never easy, especially for utility and energy companies where long test-cycles are a part of the best practices.

Is Sierra Wireless going to be firm with their scheduled sunset of the ultra-profitable Raven X line? My inclination is no, however, prudence dictates that the alternative LS300, GX400, and GX440 be tested immediately in order to move them through the standards department and into production.

Sierra Wireless Airlink LS300 Is Available

For those who are interested in keeping informed about the latest wireless connectivity options available for electric utility distribution automation and transmission automation, there are many exciting developments at DistribuTECH 2013. Today at DistribuTech in San Diego, Sierra Wireless announced the immediate availability of their new, ultra-compact, intelligent modem, the Sierra Wireless Airlink LS300. With external dimensions of about 3′ by 3.5″ this wireless gateway is a smaller footprint than the Raven X or the GX400/440, which means it fits well into environmental enclosures and NEMA cabinets. Although the Sierra Wireless LS300 is small in size, it is very rich in features. It has an Ethernet port, a serial port (on the side) and also contains a GPS reciever. The price of this device is  less than the Raven X and the GX400 platforms even though it exceeds or matches the feature set of both of these cellular network devices. Clearly, the intent of Sierra Wireless with the Airlink LS300 is that this device will replace the Airlink Raven X going forward. Key clients have already been seeded with test/demo units of the Sierra Wireless Airlink LS300. For those evaluating  M2M communication device, the LS300 is  worth considering when researching cellular Ethernet/serial gateways. It is worth noting that the Sierra Wireless Airlink LS300 is available only for the Verizon Wireless and AT&T 3G cellular networks, not their LTE networks. Clients that want LTE will have to opt for the Sierra Wireless Airlink GX440.

See more information about the Sierra Wireless Airlink LS300 here

MIMO Antenna Systems For Verizon Wireless/AT&T LTE Networks

Multiple-Input-Multiple-Output  (MIMO) antennas solutions require two antenna fixtures and are designed for use for LTE networks built out by the public network carriers (in the USA–AT&T, Verizon). By utilizing multiple antennas, data throughput and range are increased compared to a single antenna using the same radio transmit power. Additionally MIMO antennas improve link reliability and experience less fading than a single antenna system. By transmitting multiple data streams at the same time, wireless capacity is increased.

MIMO technology uses Multipath (when wireless signals “bounce” off of objects and arrive at the receiver at different times) to improve wireless performance. MIMO technology takes a single data stream and breaks it down into several separate data streams and sends it out over multiple antennas. This provides redundancy. The receiving MIMO antenna will “look” at each stream being sent to determine the strongest one to choose.

Our company has performed bench tests where using a MIMO antenna system for LTE has increased performance by 40% over using one antenna fixture. Currently our chosen path is to use two separate antennas (that utilize the same cellular fixture) for our MIMO solutions. Examples of antennas that can be used in pairs for MIMO are below. In the near future we look forward to bench-testing MIMO antenna systems that contain both MIMO antenna fixtures in a single housing or radome.



CradlePoint Improves GPS Functionality On Some COR IBR600 4G/3G WWAN Routers

For those who were disappointed with the limited GPS functionality in the first release of the CradlePoint COR IBR600, know that CradlePoint has released a new version that should address the GPS functionality limitations inherent in their first design. CradlePoint has released a redesigned version, the COR IBR600LE-PWD for Verizon Wireless (VZW) and the CORIBR600LP-PWD for AT&T, that has active, powered GPS. What this means is that for these two models a separate GPS co-ax connector is present so that a fully-powered external GPS antenna can be used. This feature set upgrade is crucial for any application that needs real-time long/lat data.