Qualcomm expands support for cellular-based IoT technologies

Qualcomm Technologies (NASDAQ:QCOM) is wasting no time touting its advanced solutions for supporting low power wide area (LPWA) LTE technologies after the 3GPP last week said it had completed the standardization of three LPWA technologies within Release 13 (LTE Advanced Pro) specifications: NB-IoT, eMTC and EC-GSM-IoT.

While corrections to the standard are still possible in the coming months, 3GPP said the feature is now frozen in the specification, and only essential backward-compatible changes will be allowed from now onward. The 3GPP completed the work in seemingly record time as cellular operators decided they wanted a standardized approach to LPWA amid a lot of non-cellular technologies being deployed by the likes of Sigfox, Ingenu and the LoRa Alliance members.

Qualcomm was a main contributor to the new Release 13 narrowband IoT technologies (eMTC, NB-IoT) and had previously announced the Qualcomm MDM9206 chipset platform with support for Cat-M1 (eMTC) and Cat-NB1 (NB-IoT).

Meanwhile, Qualcomm said it has secured more than 100 design wins across more than 60 OEMs and module OEMs based on its MDM9x07 chipset family, which is comprised of the Qualcomm Snapdragon X5 LTE (9x07) modem and MDM9207-1 modem for the IoT.

The Snapdragon X5 LTE modem (9x07) supports LTE Category 4 download speeds up to 150 Mbps. The MDM9207-1 modem offers LTE Category 1 support for up to 10 Mbps on the downlink, power save mode and up to 10 years of battery life from two AA batteries.

Customers are very concerned about network longevity when it comes to deploying devices that will be in the field for 10+ years, said Andy Wood, director of business development at Qualcomm. LTE networks are expected to be supported well into the future, even as 5G technologies are being developed.

While there are trade-offs when it comes to the newer cellular-based IoT standards, certain applications will be a better fit for NB-IoT versus, say, Cat-M1, also known as eMTC. "There are benefits to each and we think they will coexist," even in the same geography, Wood told FierceWirelessTech. Carriers might roll out one before the other, but in the long run, "I think they'll all coexist."

Just a year and a half ago, there wasn't really a clear path for cellular operators, some of which found themselves talking with proprietary LPWA providers. Dino Flore, chairman of 3GPP RAN, said last week that it took only nine months to standardize the new IoT technology after the study phase. 

Wood said some of the services that are driving the excitement in IoT include agricultural and environmental sensing; utilities, especially energy metering – and the smart grid in general is expected to really take off – as well as mobile health; smart cities – with thing like outdoor lighting and traffic monitoring – and more.

For more:
- see this press release
- see this blog

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