Arkessa focus: LTE-M

The world is a pretty strange and challenging place for most of us right now. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by the Covid-19 crisis and in particular with those working on the frontline to protect individuals and communities.

We are all adjusting to working remotely and it has been wonderful to see the growth in community spirit, both locally and globally.  More than ever, connections are important and at a time when we cannot physically spend time with other people beyond those we live with, technology enables us to see and speak to one another with ease.  Connectivity is at the forefront of our minds; ensuring that the world can keep going even when movements are restricted is no longer a dream but a requirement.

Back in February we took an in-depth look at the Narrow Band Internet of Things. NB-IoT is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) cellular technology, designed for applications requiring low-cost, low-power, mass deployment. As you are probably aware, NB-IoT is not the only LPWA network option. Long Term Evolution for Machines, or LTE-M (sometimes called CAT-M1) is rolling out across the globe, opening up applications and distribution models, previously unfeasible due to cost restrictions or coverage limitations.

What does LTE-M do that NB-IoT can’t?

It’s fair to say that both technologies support many of the same use cases in very similar ways. NB-IoT and LTE-M are both designed for applications that require long battery life, massive deployment density, ease of deployment, and lower costs. These technologies allow for reduced device power consumption and can support up to 10-15 years’ battery life in certain use cases. They also excel in areas of poor coverage, including deep within buildings or underground. Designed for long-range operation, LPWAN technologies are suited to smart metering, assisted parking, lighting, automation, tracking, and smart city applications.

However, there are some differences between the two technologies. LTE-M offers a higher data rate, better mobility and voice over network.   On the flip side, LTE-M is more expensive to run, requires greater bandwidth and, at present, cannot be put into guard band frequency (an unused part of the radio spectrum between bands).

Anything you can do, I can do better!

Well, perhaps not better, but differently! Whilst it is true that LTE-M is more expensive to run, it does offer an advantage for those already using the LTE network, due to its compatibility.  This means that LTE-M already has LTE levels of security and access. Lower set up costs are also an advantage – no new antennas are required, just a software patch.

Just like NB-IoT, LTE-M is fantastic for smart metering, wearables, predictive maintenance, agriculture and lighting applications. However, the mobility of LTE-M makes it the best choice if you are after real time communication, voice commands and precise location tracking.  Think fleet and asset tracking, wearables used away from Wi-Fi, remote health monitoring. As soon as you want to gather data on the go, LTE-M instead of NB-IoT becomes a more relevant choice.

With the higher data rates on offer with LTE-M, applications requiring larger levels of data collections and transmission are able to access cellular connectivity services – changing the game for users and manufacturers alike.

The Future

NB-IoT and LTE-M meet the requirements for Massive IoT, and can co-exist with 2G3G and 4G mobile networks. LPWAN technologies will ease the transition to 5G, and by 2025 it’s predicted that NB-IoT and LTE-M will account for over half of all cellular IoT connections.

Both LTE-M and NB-IoT operate on licensed spectrum radio bands which make them an excellent choice; they will continue to be supported no matter how devices and data change.  Another great feature is the flexible connectivity. LTE-M enables the same device to be used regardless of the connectivity provider, giving customers greater flexibility and access to local network costs.

To find out more, and to order an LTE-M trial pack, . with your application requirements. get in touch at connect@arkessa.com with your application requirements.

Keep up to date with all things Arkessa and how we can help you succeed in IoT.