As promised, Verizon has commercially deployed LTE CAT-M (also known as CAT-M1 or LTE-M) technology for Internet of Things (IoT) applications in limited markets throughout the U.S. The company also has completed testing on three CAT-M devices.
According to Chris Schmidt, executive director, device technology at Verizon Labs, the company hasn’t revealed the specific markets where CAT-M is available, but it is working with potential customers and expects to soon have a CAT-M customer deployment. The company is on track to have CAT-M available nationwide by end of first quarter 2017.
LTE-CAT M is part of the 3GPP LTE Release 13 Advanced Pro standard and is intended for narrowband LTE applications such as wearables that require a low power network with widespread coverage. The technology offers several benefits, including longer battery life for IoT devices (up to 10 years or more), modules that are less expensive than regular 4G LTE modules, and better network coverage in buildings and underground.
Interestingly, Schmidt said one use case for CAT-M that is attracting some attention is voice. He said that security companies are looking at using CAT-M to deliver voice capability in certain security scenarios. For example, with a home security system it may be easier to communicate with the homeowner via voice instead of data. However, Schmidt added that CAT-M isn’t being eyed as a technology for regular voice conversations. “It’s something we want to trial,” he said, noting that the company will test it during the first half of next year.
Verizon is optimistic that the ecosystem for CAT-M is growing on a global scale. Chip makers like Sequans, Altair, and Qualcomm have been involved in CAT-M development. Telit, Gemalto, Nokia and others have also committed to the technology.
Analyst firm ABI has predicted that CAT-M technology will see strong growth in 2018 and onward as network operators become more aggressive in their deployments. Operators like Japan’s SoftBank and Korea’s SK Telecom have both said they will initially deploy low-power networks (LoRa), which are non-cellular and use unlicensed spectrum, in 2016 and 2017 and then deploy narrowband-IoT and LTE-M later.
Update: This story was updated to reflect that Verizon’s CAT-M1 deployment will be nationwide by end of first quarter 2017.