While 5G gets a lot of attention for the role it will play in the Internet of Things (IoT) and everything else, there's still a lot of runway for LTE, and some players are placing their bets that Cat 1 LTE will drive M2M and IoT growth.
Toward that end, Sequans Communications just announced it is partnering with Gemalto to integrate Sequans' StreamliteLTE chipset platforms into a family of wireless communication modules for the M2M and IoT markets. The first of the new products will be based on Sequans' Calliope LTE platform, which it says is the world's first Cat 1 LTE chipset solution optimized for low power and lower bandwidth requirements.
Sequans' executives have been talking with Gemalto for the past year or so and this represents its first real partnership with the company. The first of the new Sequans-powered Gemalto modules is expected to be certified and ship in the second half of 2015, targeting U.S. markets with other markets to follow.
Sequans CEO Georges Karam told FierceWirelessTech that there are a lot of benefits in going to Cat 1 LTE. For one, U.S. wireless operators are shutting down their 2G networks--AT&T has set a 2017 end date--and they want to refarm 2G spectrum for 4G, which is more efficient.
At some point, M2M customers may have no choice. "The world is going to move to 4G only. This is really happening. It's just really a question of time. It's not about [whether] it's happening or not," he said. "Sooner or later there will be 2G completely dying and 3G even as well." It's happening in the U.S., as well as Japan and places like South Korea, Australia and China. "It's a must-have because they need to take the spectrum of the 2G and use it on 4G."
While Sequans is now starting to see interest pick up in Cat 1 LTE, that wasn't always the case. Just a year ago, a lot of clients felt the majority of M2M was 2G and 3G and they questioned the need to go to 4G. "Suddenly now, people are realizing the market is happening and is going in the right direction," he said.
If there's a decision to be made between 3G and 4G, the best future-proof path is going to be 4G LTE because 3G is available with only a limited number of carriers, Karam says. And while there may be about 20 different frequency bands around the world using LTE, it does unify networks throughout the world to one IP-based network, rather than having to account for CDMA versus GSM and their various flavors.
For now, Sequans is enjoying its time-to-market advantage. "I believe we have leadership--at least a one-year advantage for anyone who wants to come behind us," Karam said.
According to IHS, Gemalto/Cinterion, Sierra Wireless and Telit dominate the M2M module market, together accounting for nearly two-thirds of total market revenue. Gemalto acquired Cinterion in 2010.
At Mobile World Congress 2015 in March, Verizon Wireless and Sequans announced they had collaborated with Ericsson to conduct testing of LTE UE Cat 1 devices powered by Sequans on a Verizon trial network using Ericsson LTE infrastructure. The trial took place in the fourth quarter of 2014 and set out to prove that Cat 1 devices could coexist with other high-performance LTE devices.
Another benefit of Cat 1, according to Karam, is a majority of networks are nearly ready for it; they just need a software update rather than wholesale network upgrades.
- see the release
- see this EE Times article
Making LTE lighter, cheaper (and slower) for the Internet of Things
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Sequans watching costs during transition from WiMAX to LTE