For Cellular machine-to-machine (M2M) applications, the wireless module is typically the highest price component of the design. Setting price and required features aside, it is critical to select the right module and module supplier based on the following top five criteria to mitigate re-design and re-certification costs:
1) What is the EOL (End of Life) policy and EOL history of module supplier migration support?
There have been a number of M2M module suppliers that have entered the market and then quickly left leaving their customers scrambling to find alternate solutions. At the same time those customers had to absorb large re-engineering and certification costs for EOL modules. A solid module supplier should provide an insight into their module EOL history. In addition to that they should provide a long lead time notice of EOL in their supply agreement and some guarantees around current module supply. Another condition is a module migration path for replacement modules that are pin-to-pin and SW compatible (i.e. Swap & replace).
2) How stable and proven is the FW and SW (Firmware, Software) stack of their module and who owns the FW / SW?
This is a critical component of the module. If the FW module is not stable, your global application may have connectivity issues. A stable and proven FW stack is one that is regression tested before each release and includes any bug/fixes that have been identified globally during past years of modules in the field. Additionally, if the module vendor owns the stack and experiences issues, they can quickly create a fix to resolve issues and limit your downtime.
3) What is the technical support offered by the supplier during engineering, certifications, and post-deployment?
A module’s supplier should offer several benefits. Among these include:
This type of engineering support will limit issues when going for PTCRB , FCC and AT&T certification and save you time and money. The module vendor should also provide in-field support for issues relating to the performance of the module to ensure that your M2M application is performing as designed.
4) Does the supplier provide 2G and 3G IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) indemnity?
This should go without saying, but this should be discussed and the module supplier should provide proof of IPR indemnity and 2G/3G licensing payments. As an M2M application supplier, you do not want you, your application, or your customer to be liable because of IPR infractions. This can be very costly and damaging to your business.
5) Cellular Roadmap from 2G to 3G
For M2M applications, this is more of a topic for domestic application suppliers. Module suppliers should show a smooth migration path from their 2G modules to 3G modules that limit re-engineering time and costs. This migration is a bit more complicated than just swapping one module for another since 2G and 3G chipsets used in the modules are different. But, the module supplier should show you how this migration can be completed with their support and a short time-line for M2M 3G modules certified and available in the market.
Taking into account these five criteria to chose an M2M cellular module will pay dividends during the life of your M2M application.