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Comcast's Internet of Things ambitions — and its deployment of long-range wireless networks — could disrupt wireless market leaders in coming years, according to a new report.

The U.S. Network Operator M2M Market Analysis from ABI Research suggested that recent announcements from Comcast could be "a huge distraction for the top four U.S. mobile operators" as they seek to capitalize on machine-to-machine connections.

"Comcast is building on the back of its two main network assets: backhaul infrastructure and successful WiFi hotspot deployments," ABI Principal Analyst Kevin McDermott says in a statement. "Comcast has reported its hotspot program has surpassed 16 million, and they are actively developing an M2M strategy."

Other potential distractions for wireless leaders, the report added, included Low-Power Wide-Area networks, private network opportunities and the debate over licensed and unlicensed spectrum.

The ABI forecast anticipates that cellular carriers will benefit from the growth in transportation technologies — namely connected vehicles — as the number of machine-to-machine connections climbs from nearly 83 million at the end of 2016 to more than 300 million in 2022.

"Carrier grade support and service is essential for mission-critical enterprise applications," McDermott notes. "Some of the biggest opportunities and drivers for cellular operators are in telematics and asset tracking; coverage and low latency are the essential requirements for these fast-growing segments."

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