M2M devices must be LTE
Although M2M has always been talked about as a possible application for LTE, it was once deemed to be too complex and expensive to be viable for M2M applications. Today, however things have changed. It is well accepted now that LTE is the inevitable global standard and therefore the eventual bearer for any device needing a wide-area wireless connection. LTE is about much more than high throughput—it is about spectral efficiency, longevity, scaleability, and economic advantage for operators and devicemakers. The move to LTE is inevitable and eventually all devices connected to the vast Internet of Things—from the highest speed smartphone to the lowest speed utility meter or wearable device—will be LTE.
LTE-M with Category 0 capability on the horizon
This is why the 3GPP’s next two releases of the LTE standard, Releases 12 and 13, specify incremental steps towards optimizing LTE for M2M devices. These releases define LTE-M with Category 0, or “Cat 0” capability, for machine type communications (MTC). Cat 0 defines a peak speed of 1 Mbps and it is being developed in response to the huge and growing demand for LTE solutions for a wide range of M2M and IoT devices that don’t require high throughput or other complex capabilities. In addition to the lower speed, Cat 0 defines narrower bandwidths and other significant reductions in complexity which reduce cost and power consumption, and it introduces coverage improvements necessary to support MTC in LTE. The objective of all this is to ensure that M2M devices and applications can run on LTE networks cost-effectively. The evolution of LTE toward Cat 0 will certainly accelerate the trend of operators to shutter 2G and 3G networks and migrate all, including M2M applications, to LTE.
Until then, Category 1 LTE deployable now and viable for many M2M applications
The full benefits of these Cat 0 optimizations must await the completion of the Release 12 and 13 specifications. They must also await the deployment by operators of the new capabilities in their networks and their re-allocation of spectrum for MTC use. While the industry waits for this—likely until at least 2017—Sequans has introduced a Category 1 LTE chipset solution, Calliope, that specifically addresses the needs of M2M device makers for an especially low cost solution that can be deployed now. Cat 1 (up to 10 Mbps) has been part of the earliest 3GPP LTE specifications, meaning LTE operators can deploy Cat 1 devices with no need for new network equipment or major upgrades, allowing them to manage their networks more efficiently by not allocating excessive resources to devices that don’t require high throughput. Cat 1 provides meaningful cost and power reductions vs. today’s Cat 4 and higher LTE solutions, while providing seamless coexistence with today’s network deployments. It is an important step towards the LTE-enabled Internet of Things.
The LTE-enabled Internet of Things growing rapidly with new low cost, low power devices
With the availability of Cat 1 solutions now and Cat 0 solutions on the horizon, we see the LTE-enabled Internet of Things expanding rapidly to include a myriad of new devices and use cases. According to Analysys Mason, the availability of low power, low cost wireless solutions like Cat 1 (and eventually Cat 0), LTE will expand the M2M market by some 3 billion additional units over the next ten years. (Low-powered wireless solutions have the potential to increase the M2M market by over 3 billion connections, Reports – Analysys Mason, September 2014).
The new applications for LTE in the M2M world that are enabled by Cat 1 LTE chipset solutions are numerous. They include smart watches, health monitoring devices and other wearables that need several days of battery life, and M2M devices such as routers, utility meters and industrial monitoring devices that must operate for years on a single battery.
Cat 1 LTE chipset solutions like Calliope offer device designers a basis for M2M design that is viable today and one that enables module costs to be competitive with existing 2G and 3G solutions, while still providing all the performance, economic, and longevity advantages of LTE.