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The nation's top wireless carriers could capitalize on increased machine-to-machine connections in coming years, according to a new report — provided they can avoid "distractions."

ABI Research's U.S. Network Operator M2M Market Analysis projected that the U.S. cellular M2M market will eclipse 300 million connections by 2022, and ABI Principal Analyst Kevin McDermott noted in a statement that those Internet of Things connections — particularly in telematics and asset tracking — represent "some of the biggest opportunities and drivers for cellular operators."

Telematics and other transportation applications, the report indicated, accounted for more than two-third of the nearly 83 million connected devices as of the end of 2016, and that connected vehicle technologies are the main driver of new applications that benefit cellular operators.

"Coverage and low latency are the essential requirements for these fast-growing segments," McDermott said.

ABI analysts, however, cautioned that Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint cannot allow themselves to "get distracted by other technologies," such as competing Low-Power Wide-Area networks, private network opportunities and the debate over licensed and unlicensed spectrum.

One potentially significant factor, meanwhile, is Comcast's deployment of long-range wireless networks using its existing infrastructure and WiFi hotspots.

"Comcast has reported its hotspot program has surpassed 16 million, and they are actively developing an M2M strategy," McDermott said.

The ABI report also expects LTE to become the leading standard for IoT networks in the U.S. and offer numerous options for data rates, range and node power efficiency.

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