Mobility continues to be one of the most dynamic technology trends in the field today. New tools, resources and information are being designed with mobility as their primary modality. Where once information was housed on central servers and storage infrastructure distributed across a hub and spoke network, today’s mobile-first paradigm puts the power in the hands of field workers where it is most impactful.

Mobility trends present many challenges to IT managers and users. Vehicles have become roaming situational awareness assets. Mobile users are demanding a safe, ergonomic and efficient mobile office environment while integrating more devices, software and functionality than ever before.

We’ve reached a tipping point, and the market is demanding a more elegant solution. Gone are the days when a point product was purchased for every individual need. Today, mobility requires a platform to cross leverage resources and information across multiple devices and communication protocols. This is where a mobile access router (MAR) shines.

What is a MAR?

A mobile access router is a standalone network device installed and integrated into a vehicle to manage and share connectivity. Tactically, a MAR takes the place of many of the modems that are built into individual devices. The MAR shares connectivity across a single platform through a combination of communication protocols, e.g., cellular data, Wi-Fi, GPS, satellite, Ethernet, serial, Bluetooth, USB.

MARs provide the ideal IT infrastructure for advanced functionalities, e.g., in-vehicle video, video offload and streaming, automatic vehicle location (AVL), asset/RFID tracking, vehicle diagnostics.

Siera Wireless GX440 Sierra Wireless InMotion Solutions oMG Utility Core (1)

Mobile Access Routers (MARS) from Sierra and Utility available at CDW.

Why Should I Use a MAR?

Dollars and Sense – Most mobile devices allow for cellular data, Wi-Fi and GPS protocols. Users typically purchase embedded cellular, Wi-Fi and GPS modems in each mobile device they utilize. A vehicle might have a rugged mobile data terminal (MDT) and laptop, a tablet and smartphone – all with duplicative modems. When refreshing to new mobile devices, users are inflating their costs by $500 – $800 by repurchasing embedded modems.

By separating the connectivity solutions from the mobile devices and moving them to a MAR, we can change devices without affecting the core in-vehicle IT infrastructure. This means we can move from a rugged MDT to a tablet and on to a smartphone without changing the underlying IT system or paying for new embedded modems.

MAR’s are typically certified as rugged similar to most MDT’s including MIL-STD 810G and ingress protection 65 (IP65) ratings. This is commercial equipment built to perform in challenging environments with low failure rates for years. Many users report their MAR’s outlasting the vehicles they’re in. For example, police departments refresh vehicles every three years on average. They often uninstall the core in-vehicle IT infrastructure hardware from the old vehicle and install it into a new one.

Features and Functions

Wi-Fi – MAR’s produce a Wi-Fi hotspot extending approximately 300 feet around a vehicle via a powerful roof mounted antenna. This network can be open or as locked down as required. Any device with a Wi-Fi modem can utilize the LAN/WAN network.

Cellular Data – A MAR employs a multimodal 3G/4G LTE roof mounted, variable gain antenna to achieve the highest level of performance. Cell phones, tablets and other consumer mobile devices with embedded modem reach out three to five miles to connect to a cell tower. A MAR’s antenna extends the range out to 15 – 30 miles. Some MAR’s are capable of utilizing multiple cellular modems. This allows us to run one cellular carrier’s service as primary and have a second carrier for redundancy. Administrators can configure a MAR to load balance network traffic over the two carriers, utilizing both services simultaneously.

A MAR will force a cellular modem to upshift from 3G to 4G even during active data transmission. Many consumers notice their mobile devices seem to get stuck in 3G mode. This is due to the cellular modems waiting for a lapse in data traffic before shifting back to 4G. Commercial applications leave little downtime for the upshift to occur. A MAR forces an upshift when 4G becomes available, again ensuring the highest data throughput at all times.

The oMG Mobile Gateway by Sierra Wireless InMotion Solutions offers a FirstNet modem option for public sector customers planning to utilize their own Band 14, 700MHz network.

GPS – MAR’s utilize a high gain, roof-mounted antenna to produce GPS coordinates accurate to within one meter. Multicasting allows GPS data to be broadcast to multiple devices or software.

Additional Features

  • Dynamic “best effort” network switching between available protocols
  • Native, gateway VPN (FIPS 140-2 certified)
  • Vehicle navigation
  • Cellular data analytics
  • Single, 2-in-1 and 3-in-1 antennas consolidate hardware and wiring
  • Over the air device management

The mobile access router is the communications architecture of choice for vehicle-based applications today and provides an efficient and effective platform for future growth.