Verizon will deploy LTE CAT-M (also known as LTE Category M1) for Internet of Things (IoT) applications throughout its network by year-end. The company says this will make it the first U.S. operator to launch CAT-M.
LTE-CAT M is part of the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) LTE Release 13 Advanced Pro standard and is intended for narrowband LTE applications such as mobile healthcare applications and wearables that require a low power network with widespread coverage. LTE CAT-M competes with other low-power connectivity options such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and Zwave.
LTE CAT-M offers several benefits, including longer battery life for IoT devices (up to 10 year or more), modules less expensive than regular 4G LTE modules, and better network coverage in buildings and underground.
Verizon’s commitment to CAT-M is good news for companies like Sequens, Altair, Sierra Wireless, U-Blox, Telit, Gemalto, Nokia and others, which require a strong operator commitment to move forward with their chipsets, modules, and associated devices.
But Verizon isn’t the only operator eying CAT-M. AT&T is piloting the technology in San Francisco in November. The wireless operator said it will use Sierra Wireless modules for the trial. If successful, the company will deploy it commercially in 2017.
The connectivity layer of the IoT ecosystem has so far been pretty fragmented. Companies have numerous options for connectivity including cellular networks (2G, 3G, and LTE), WiFi networks, low-power wide area (LPWA) networks, and proprietary networks like Ingenue or SigFox. However, IoT experts believe that eventually standards will win and inter-operability will be an important differentiator.
The fact that two major U.S. operators are committing to the LTE CAT-M standard is a significant step toward inter-operability and standards-based networks.