May 18, 2017 —
Sprint will complete deployment of internet of things technology known as LTE Category 1 (Cat-1) across its nationwide network by the end of July 2017, according to announcement this week at IoT World 2017 held in Santa Clara, California. LTE Cat-1 is designed to support low-power applications on cellular networks such as vehicle telematics and industrial IoT applications.
In addition, LTE Category M1 (Cat-M1) will be deployed in mid-2018 followed by LTE Categoy NB1 (Cat-NB1) by the carrier. LTE Cat-M1 and LTE Cat-NB1 are designed to support numerous other applications requiring ultra-low throughput and power consumption such as industrial sensors, asset trackers, or wearables.
The various categories mentioned above are based on flavors of narrowband technology designed for the Internet of Things (NB-IoT), and is one of a range of Mobile IoT (MIoT) technologies standardized by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). IoT module OEM Ublox notes that traditional cellular air interfaces are too expensive for IoT applications, so new standards were needed for cellular networks that focus on low speed, robust data transfer and reliability.
“We’re making great progress on our roadmap in support of the evolution of the IoT standards and access technology,” said Mohamad Nasser, general manager of Sprint’s IoT Business Unit. “IoT, along with wireless and wireline, is one of the three critical business lines for the Sprint Business portfolio. We are investing effort and capital to make sure that Sprint is well positioned to capitalize on the incredible growth that IoT will experience globally.”
Verizon Announces LTE Cat-M1 Plans
At the end of March, Verizon, which has already deployed an LTE Cat-1 network, announced plans to launch a nationwide commercial LTE Cat-M1 network, which spans 2.4 million square miles. The IoT network will be built on a virtualized cloud environment, which enables rapid IoT solution deployment and nationwide scaling.
Verizon’s open ecosystem for LTE Cat-M1 includes infrastructure providers and manufacturers of chipsets, modules and devices, including Sequans, Telit, U-Blox, Sierra Wireless, Gemalto, Qualcomm Technologies and Altair.
Network Vice President at Verizon Mike Haberman said, “As the natural shift from CDMA-based IoT solutions to the more robust and cloud-based LTE technology occurs, it’s important we stay ahead of that technology evolution for our customers so we can continue to provide them service on the best and most advanced wireless network. Our commercial deployment of the nationwide LTE Cat-M1 network does just that.”
The low-bandwidth use cases for LTE Cat-M1 chipsets warrant different types of data plans, including low rate, multi-year plans to match the longer-use life of devices.
Cellular IoT Outlook ‘Never Been Brighter’
Strategy Analytics expects IoT cellular connections to grow to more than 2.4 billion in 2025. The top three vertical markets, automotive, utilities and security when combined will accounting for more than 46 percent of global IoT cellular connections in 2025.
“With the industry focusing on the path to 5G and low-power 3GPP offerings, such as LTE Cat M1 and NB IoT, coupled with a variety of established connectivity platforms, there are lots of choices for cellular connectivity in IoT and the outlook has never been brighter,” Andrew Brown, executive director of Enterprise and IoT Research at Strategy Analytics, said. “However, the bewildering array of choices also runs the risk of creating confusion for customers with regard to which technologies should be employed in which use cases.”