The machine-to-machine (M2M) market, basically the ability of sensors to communicate using wrieless means to servers, generally is viewed as one of the key three to four areas where the mobile services industry can look for growth in coming years, especially once sales of mobile broadband services become saturated.

So it comes as no surprise that Sprint has announced agreements with Itron; Lanner Electronics; Power Insight and Silver Spring Networks, which will offer Sprint wireless network connectivity in support of their automated products and services. Sprint deals

The other hoped-for eventuality is that many energy utilities, which traditionally have operated their own private networks, might simply turn to services provided over public networks, instead.

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By the end of 2011, most major mobile operators in North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region had established M2M business units, in part because of a belief that connections will rise from about 110 million in 2011 to approximately 365 million connections by 2016.

The caveat is that some observers consider tablet, e-book and mobile PC connections to be M2M, while others do not.

Still, the 27 percent compounded annual growth rate between now and 2016 and translates to about $35 billion in connectivity services revenue.

The two largest cellular M2M market segments over the forecast period, by revenue, will be automotive telematics and smart energy.

Automotive telematics, including factory-installed systems such as GM’s OnStar service, aftermarket services such as usage-based insurance, and fleet management systems, will together represent more than $15.5 billion in 2016, according to ABI Research.

Meanwhile, smart energy, specifically cellular connectivity to smart meters and data concentrators, will represent more than $7.5 billion in 2016. M2M

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