AT&T validates Altair's Cat-1 chipset for Internet of Things devices

AT&T (NYSE: T) has validated Altair Semiconductor's FourGee-1160 Cat-1 chipset, which is designed to improve time-to-market and reduce costs associated with the introduction of new Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

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The FourGee-1160 Cat-1 chipset.
(Image source: Altair) 

The validation comes after AT&T's January launch of a new family of LTE modules for IoT devices, including Altair's FourGee-1160 as the engine behind its M14A2A – LTE-Only CAT-1 module. At that time, AT&T said it was introducing a new family of LTE modules to meet the needs of a broad range of IoT applications.

Indeed, it appears the race is on when it comes to operator deployment of the latest in IoT designs. In response to proprietary low power wide area (LPWA) networks sprouting up by the likes of Sigfox, Ingenu and LoRa, cellular operators and vendors put their collective minds together to create new LPWA standards that use licensed LTE networks. Operators say proprietary technologies generally limit scale, and by using standards-based approaches, they can scale globally and achieve cost benefits.

According to Altair, its IoT cellular roadmap, including CAT-1 and CAT-M1/M2, will "fundamentally disrupt the competitive dynamics between cellular IoT and proprietary LPWA technologies," enabling the offering of price/power competitive solutions to a growing IoT customer base. The announcement about AT&T follows Altair's news in April that the FourGee-1160 chipset was certified for deployment on Japan's KDDI network.

Altair did not say how much the 1160 Cat-1 chipsets cost. Eran Eshed, co-founder and VP Worldwide Sales & Marketing at Altair, told FierceWirelessTech that the FourGee-1160 chip was designed from the ground up as an IoT chip, in contrast to most other "cat-1" chipsets that are retrofitted versions of higher category chipsets. The factors making the 1160 as low cost as it is are a very small die size – tailored to support only 10 Mbps, a high level of integration (integrated memory, power management), reduction of external Bill of Materials (BOM) and "a very well defined and minimal set of peripheral and host interfaces minimizing pin-count and lowering the cost of the package," he said.

The FourGee-1160 supports use cases of 10 years on a single battery and even more, but that greatly depends on the application, the use case scenario and the network supported features such as PSM and eDRX, he said. Key potential applications for the Altair FourGee-1160 Cat-1 chipset are smart meters, car telematics, security systems and smart home devices as well as other sensors and edge devices.

The 1160 is already shipping in volume and is designed in by multiple customers worldwide. Israel-based Altair, which was purchased by Sony earlier this year, has announced partnerships with Telit and Sierra Wireless and, according to Eshed, has another 15-20 yet unannounced direct module and ODM/OEM customers designing or shipping products.

Altair is also collaborating with Verizon (NYSE: VZ) to accelerate development of LTE-based IoT products. At the CTIA conference last fall, Altair demonstrated LTE's Release 12 PSM functionality, which enables terminals to enter a deep-sleep mode for long periods of time after notifying the base station.

Meanwhile, competitor Paris-based Sequans Communications last month announced that Verizon had certified the Calliope LTE Cat 1 chipset to support VoLTE applications. Sequans says the Calliope was the first LTE Cat 1 chipset to be certified by Verizon and the first to support VoLTE.

AT&T also certified Sequans' EZLinkLTE module, the US60L, which sports Sequans' IoT-optimized, LTE Cat 4-capable chipset, Colibri, along with memory, power management and a complete RF front-end, in a single package. It's geared toward areas like telematics, security and surveillance, among others.  

For more:
- see the release

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