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What is LTE Cat-M1 and NB-IoT

LTE Category M1 (Cat M1) is a power and cost optimized cellular technology designed for IoT applications that functions on a 1.4 MHz (reduced from 20 MHz) spectrum, has a transmit power of 20Bm, and provides average upload speeds between 200kpbs and 400 kpbs. This technology can extend battery life, potentially by up to 10 years.
 
Verizon, the U.S wireless operator, is about to release the Cat M1 technology along with multiple partners such as Sequans, U-Blox, Altair, Nokia, Ericsson and Gemalto. It will be released over the 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) network with an open environment and is expected to reach nationwide U.S. coverage by the end of the first trimester of 2017.
 
The true advantage of Cat-M over other options out there is that Cat-M is compatible with the existing LTE network. For carriers such as Verizon and AT&T, this is great news as they don’t have to spend money to build new antennas. They simply need to upload new software as long as the devices operate within its LTE network. The existing customer bases of these two companies will most likely hear that Cat-M is by far the superior option.
 

Perhaps one of the most innovative things for Cat-M1 is that it's the first LTE based hardware architecture designed specifically for low-power and low-cost IoT applications.  In the past, the hardware was always evolving with faster data rates to support broadband (phone, tablet, etc) applications. 


The LTE Cat M1 is a new cellular technology designed to meet the needs of applications for Internet of Things (IoT) or machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.


The LTE Cat M1 is a low-power, wide-area (LPWA) air interface that allows you to connect IoT and M2M devices with medium data rate requirements (upload and download speeds of 375 kb/s in half-duplex mode). It can achieve longer battery life cycles and greater coverage than standard cellular technologies such as 2G and 3G.

Key features of the LTE Cat M1 include:


1. Support voice function through VoLTE
2. Full mobility and car switching
3. Low power consumption
4. Extended coverage

LTE Cat M1 extension



LTE Cat M1 is part of the 3GPP Release 13 release standard, which also defines narrowband Internet of Things (NB‐IoT or LTE Cat NB1) as LPWA technology in licensed spectrum. The Cat M1's upstream and downstream speeds are 375 kb/s in half-duplex mode, specifically supporting IoT applications with low to medium data rate requirements.

At these speeds, the LTE Cat M1 provides remote wireless firmware update (FOTA) within a reasonable time frame, making it ideal for applications that are deployed on-site for long-term deployments.

In some cases, a battery life of up to 10 years with a single charge can also help reduce the maintenance cost of the deployed equipment, even where some end devices may not be directly connected to the grid. This important feature is widely used in the field of GPS tracker, because the extremely low power consumption guarantees long-term stable operation of the equipment.


When it comes to LTE Cat M1, it is inseparable from NB‐IoT, they are like brothers.

Compared to NB‐IoT, the LTE Cat M1 is ideal for mobile use cases,because it handles switching between towers like high-speed LTE. For example, if a vehicle needs to travel through several different network elements to move from point A to point B, then the Cat M1 device behaves the same as a cellular phone and does not lose connectivity. In contrast, NB‐IoT devices must re-establish a new connection at some point after reaching a new network element.

Another big advantage is the support of voice functionality via VoLTE (LTE Voice), which means it can be used in applications that require a certain level of interpersonal interaction, such as certain health and security areas (eg, instant solutions and alarm panels).
 

Application areas of LTE CAT M1


FLeet management and tracking



Devices supporting LTE Cat M1 can be fully switched between mobile vehicle network units, making them ideal for applications with low to medium data rate requirements such as vehicle tracking, asset tracking, telematics, fleet management and more. 4GGPS locator is the full use of this technology.

Smart metering


CatM1 is also ideal for monitoring metering and utility applications through both regular and small data transfers. Network coverage is a key issue in smart metering deployments. Since the meter is usually located in a building or basement, the extended range of the Cat M1 allows for better coverage in difficult to reach areas.

Intelligent Building


The CatM1 easily provides basic building management functions such as HVAC, lighting and indoor range enhanced access control. It also features VoLTE voice, making it ideal for critical applications such as security systems and alarm panels.

Health field


With its coverage, voice support and mobility expanded, the Cat M1 is also an air interface option for interconnected health applications such as outpatient monitoring and instant solutions.

Smart city


In a smart city, the Cat M1 can meet a variety of needs, effectively control street lighting, determine waste management collection schedules, and identify free parking.
Position, monitor environmental conditions, and investigate road conditions within a few milliseconds.


What is NB-IoT?


NB-IoT (also called Cat-M2) has a similar goal to LTE Cat-M1, but it uses a different technology (DSSS modulation vs. LTE radios). Therefore, NB-IoT doesn’t operate in the LTE band, meaning that providers have a higher upfront cost to deploy NB-IoT.
 
Still, NB-IoT is touted as the potentially less expensive option as it eliminates the need for a gateway. Other infrastructures typically have gateways aggregating sensor data, which then communicates with the main server (here’s a deeper explanation of gateways). With NB-IoT, sensor data is sent directly to the main server. For this reason, Huawei, Ericsson, Qualcomm, and Vodafone are actively researching and making an effort to commercialize NB-IoT.

As compared to NB-IoT, LTE Cat M1 is ideal for mobile use cases, because it handles hand?over between cell towers much like high speed LTE. For example, if a vehicle moves from point A to point B crossing several different network cells, a Cat M1 device would behave the same as a cellular phone and never drop the connection. An NB-IoT device, on the contrary, would have to re?establish a new connection at some point after a new network cell is reached.
 
Another benefit is the support of voice functionality via VoLTE (voice over LTE), which means it can be used for applications requiring a level of human interaction, such as for certain health and security applications (for example, stay?in?place solutions and alarm panels).


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