How much do you know about LTE CAT M? If you haven’t heard, Verizon is building a network based on this technology, specifically for use with IoT (internet of things) and M2M (machine to machine) applications, that will complement their existing LTE CAT 4 network used for smartphones and tablets. The 3GPP recently published Release 13 of the LTE standard, where it defines narrowband categories of LTE like category M1 (CAT M). Narrowband technologies like CAT M were created to address the growing number of IoT use cases and the expected surge in connected IoT devices in the coming years.
In a report titled “State of the Market: Internet of Things 2016,” Verizon states their belief that the number of IoT devices will grow from an estimated 9.7 billion in 2014 to over 30 billion by 2020. This is in stark contrast to the growth of cell phones, which is holding at about 7 billion (about the population of the earth) and isn’t expected to grow much more – how many cell phones do you need, right? IoT is the next growth market for cellular carriers.
This surge of IoT devices brings with it unique requirements. IoT devices aren’t like the phones and tablets most of us use daily. IoT devices are built for more mundane and utilitarian tasks: for instance, telling the stadium lights to turn on before the big game, making sure the soda machine is stocked and the sodas are staying within a defined temperature range, reporting the speed and location of a tractor trailer…the list goes on. These kinds of tasks typically require small amounts of data at infrequent intervals, as opposed to our cell phones where we are constantly carrying on VOIP phone calls, streaming video, and browsing the web. With these unique needs in mind, CAT M has some specific benefits for IoT.
The benefits of CAT M
CAT M runs on LTE technology, which is more efficient than older 2G (CDMA, TDMA). As a result, it is cheaper and more efficient for carriers to deploy and maintain. Carriers can eventually decommission the 2G networks and reuse that spectrum for the CAT M network or their CAT 4 consumer network. Carriers will standardize their networks to one technology, LTE, for both IoT and consumer use, which reduces administration costs.
Cat M1 defines a 1.4 MHz channel size and throughput of about 375 kbps uplink and 300 kbps downlink. These speeds are similar to 2G devices, but CAT M uses less spectrum for each connection, making it possible for more devices to connect to a tower at once. 375kbps may not seem like much, but for the vast majority of IoT applications it is plenty. It doesn’t take much data to report the speed and location of a vehicle, or the 16-digit credit card number plus authorization codes for a point of sale transaction.
Because the technology is more efficient, less power is required to run CAT M modules, making devices built with CAT M much more power efficient. This has a few practical benefits: solar powered devices are much more viable, and devices that use batteries can function for longer on a single battery charge than an LTE CAT 4, 2G or 3G device. Battery powered asset trackers or mobile sensors could function in the field for much longer periods of time – months or even years.
The benefits of CAT M don’t stop there:
- CAT M networks have better building penetration than other LTE categories, ideal for smart city, remote monitoring or industrial applications
- CAT M devices will only require one antenna, and are generally less complicated mechanically, lowering the cost of producing CAT M hardware
- The LTE CAT M network will be a separate network from the LTE CAT 4 networks, so IoT devices will not compete with high bandwidth devices like phones and tablets for network access
Encore Networks is a CAT M leader
Encore Networks is the first commercial cellular router company to manufacture a CAT M router certified for use on Verizon’s CAT M network. By doing so, Encore is continuing its tradition of being the first to implement new LTE technology. Last year, Encore was the first company to build a CAT1 LTE router certified for use on Verizon’s CAT1 network – meant to replace 3G devices in much the same way CAT M replaces 2G. The new CAT M router is called the EN400 and is the first CAT M router certified for use on Verizon’s CAT M network. Encore is also the first company to deploy a CAT M router for commercial use.
The EN400 will appeal to the financial industry for various uses:
- ATM machines
- point of sale solutions
The utilities industry will appreciate them for:
- remote base stations
- underground locations
- other hardened locations.
The opportunities and use cases are limitless.
Encore Networks is a leader in secure, IP+Legacy Virtual Private Network (VPN) routers for converged and broadband solutions for M2M, SCADA, Smart Grid and industrial applications.
To learn more about our products and operations, visit us at encorenetworks.com.