Narrowband offerings aim at IoT -

Narrowband offerings aim at IoT

PARIS—Critics say that cellular network carriers, too preoccupied with 4G data-capacity issues, are neglecting their Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) opportunities.

However, despite widespread skepticism, the cellular industry is fully aware that non-cellular players such as the LoRa Alliance and Sigfox are ratcheting up the competition, using unlicensed spectrum for their edge in the emerging IoT network battle. 

In response, cellular network operators will return to the Mobile World Congress next week to demonstrate a renewed commitment to Cellular IoT, recently agreed upon and designated as LTE Cat-M1 and LTE Cat-M2.

LTE chipmaker Sequans Communications S.A. revealed Tuesday (Feb. 16) that it has partnered with Gemalto, an LTE module supplier, to extend their LTE Category 1 collaboration. They’re developing a new set of narrowband LTE Machine Type Communication solutions (MTC) based on Category M1 and M2 technologies. 

Sequans CEO Georges Karam at his office in Paris

Sequans CEO Georges Karam at his office in Paris

Cat-M1 will deploy the bandwidth of 1.4MHz (including guard interval) enabling “an average speed at around 200-300 kilobits per second,” Georges Karam, CEO at Sequans, told EE Times in an interview. Cat-M2 will use 200MHz (including guard interval) designed for “applications requiring 10 to 30 kbps in average.”

The move to M1 and M2 is significant, first, because it represents the cellular community’s coordinated effort to use narrowband technology to support massive numbers of IoT devices. Second, cellular players have now concentrated divergent plans, applying the LTE legacy network to the demand for Low-Power, Wide-Area (LPWA) networks.

The cellular community last year was sharply divided about how much existing LTE network can be repurposed for IoT. Telecom equipment vendors such as Nokia and Ericsson supported the reuse of LTE standards for IoT. The group later picked up Intel, while Sprint and Verizon Wireless also joined the initiative. On the other hand, there was Huawei, along with Vodafone and China Unicom, pushing so-called “clean-slate” NB-IOT.

Sequans CEO told EE Times, “A previously discussed plan to develop ‘clean slate’ NB-IOT is now dead.”

After a showdown on M2M connectivity proposals at the 3rd Generation Partnership Project’s (3GPP) plenary meeting in Phoenix, Arizona last September, the industry group reached a decision on the standardization of a new NB-IOT technology. The so-called “clean-slate” NB-IOT is now renamed LTE Cat-M2, and it will not pursue a spectrum separate from LTE.

Qualcomm masterfully united the cellular community, observed Karam, by giving neutral new names (M1 and M2) to the two narrowband-based technologies.

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