At CTIA in April, Sierra Wireless announced their new intelligent gateway platform, formally code-named Sharks, now officially named the Sierra Wireless Airlink GX400. I must editorialize here, and mention that I am disappointed that Sierra Wireless has made a departure from the former AirLink naming convention, which was word-based, and moved into the generic alpha-numeric format. A quick search of the product name GX400 on Google turns up a Dell computer and a Honda car. Thus, the term GX400 is going to be difficult to brand as a Sierra Wireless intelligent cellular gateway. I vote that they immediately change the name to the Eagle. The ALEOS operating system on the GX400 soars, so Eagle would have been apt.
The feature set of the GX400 is an interesting amalgam of features from the Sierra Wireless Raven X and the Pinpoint X. This device has both the serial and the Ethernet ports of these devices, as well as the built-in GPS receiver of the PinPoint X. For clients who are streamlining their IT standards list for wireless telecommunications, and would like a single platform that can handle M2M and Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) applications, than this is the one. In addition, it is significantly less expensive than the Pinpoint X and much less expensive than the MP–both entries in the AVL space that Sierra Wireless has been very successful with. So why won’t every end-user jump ship from the PinPoint and the MP to the GX400 then? Well, the GX400 does not, at least at this time, have an option to integrate an WIFI access point inside the device, as the MP series does. And the GX400 also does not currently have any i/o telematics ports to offer, so setting up triggers with the GX400 is not possible at this time. As you may have noticed, I am being careful to use time qualifiers when discussing the feature set of the GX400 and comparing the feature set of the GX400 with the Pinpoint and the MP. This caution is due to the fact that the GX400 does have an expansion slot. It is my strong belief that Sierra Wireless will soon be announcing the availability of a wireless LAN module for the GX400, and with WIFI in the expansion slot, this functionality would make the device more on-par with the MP. However, please not, this expansion module has NOT been released yet. See more about the Sierra Wireless GX400 specifications at http://www.usatcorp.com/products/Sierra-Wireless-AirLink-GX400.asp
Currently, the VZW GX400 is the first to market, and this device is shipping at this time. Sprint will be next to market, and the AT&T device will be last to market (I hear that it is still being certified on the AT&T network at this time).
As in interesting marketing ploy, (which is also useful for clients that are very interested in rapid adoption of the GX400 platform), Sierra Wireless has announced that clients that buy a special “upgrade-ready” version of the 3G GX400 today can upgrade to the 4G GX400 anytime prior to 12/31 2011. The upgrade program is not entirely a giant cash-saver and is not entirely high on the convenience meter, as the upgrade requires a $290 investment to perform this upgrade AND a trip back to Sierra Wireless to perform the upgrade. However, it still offers a viable upgrade path that will, ultimately appeal to a select set of enterprise users who need to deploy today, but want future flexibility. And, Sierra Wireless in the interim is able to announce that they have made the first LTE intelligent gateway available to the marketplace. For a complete description of the GX400 3G to LTE Upgrade Program program, you can navigate to http://www.usatcorp.com/pdf/Sierra_Wireless_AirLink_GX400_Upgrade_Program.pdf
In closing, for those Raven X, XT, XE users who are still jittery about rapid obsolescence about their device of choice, (since Sierra Wireless for a short period of time announced the upcoming end-of-life of the Raven in 2010), fear not. The Raven is still on the roadmap for 2011 and 2012 as well.