Feature Article

September 10, 2014

Lower-Level LTE is Coming to Address the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things promises to usher in a broad array of new connected devices to our world and our wireless networks. But many of these endpoints don’t and won’t require the high speeds that today’s LTE networks deliver. However, some of the largest cellular service providers are sunsetting their older, 2G networks.

So what can device makers, organizations that adopt these devices, and cellular service providers do to ensure their IoT devices and strategies are affordable, manageable, and secure now and well into the future? The answer, according to Eran Eshed, co-founder, vice president of marketing and business development at chip company Altair, is to embrace upcoming LTE-based solutions that deliver the long range and reliability of LTE, while offering less bandwidth and more affordability than the LTE most of us know today. 

As soon as next year, Altair will disrupt the M2M space with the introduction of new, lower-level LTE-only chipsets that address the cost and power issues that to date have made LTE less than an ideal match for most IoT applications, he says.

3GPP already has some of the pieces in place to move Altair and the M2M ecosystem along this path, he indicates. In addition to the Category 4 version of LTE, which offers a 150mbps download, and Category 6, which leverages carrier aggregation to achieve speeds up to 300mbps, groups within 3GPP have been working on Category 0 (aka LTE MTC, or machine-type communications), for which we should have standards within a year or a year and a half, he says. Category 0 delivers bandwidth at 1mbps and below, he says.

Not only will Category 0 LTE solutions deliver more appropriate bandwidth levels for M2M applications, says Eshed, they will outfit service providers, which are seeing strong pressure coming from priority, unlicensed spectrum technologies like Sigfox, with a better solution. LTE is a better choice, he explains, because it’s more reliable and has longer range than some of these other options. That reliability is important, particularly for IoT applications that involve personal health, for example, he says.

“So when it comes to insurance-backed or lifesaving things, you need something reliable, secure, and manageable,” he says, “and cellular really gives you all these options better than all these local, unlicensed technologies.”

Ten-year-old Altair has been pushing its LTE-only vision for about 8 years now, and now that cellular carriers have built out their LTE networks to a significant extent, this message is starting to resonate with industry players, Eshed says. The company’s LTE-only chips are already in widespread use in Chromebooks, dongals, M2M devices, modems, and tablets, he says. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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