Yes, Virginia, Verizon did live up to its promises to make Cat M1 commercially available by the end of this year, with nationwide expansion to occur in 2017.
The operator isn’t disclosing which markets it’s initially available in, but they were lit up this month, spokesman Chris McCann told FierceWirelessTech. Earlier this year, Verizon said it would deploy LTE Cat M1 by the end of the year, making it the first U.S. operator to launch the new technology.
Both Verizon and rival AT&T have described Cat M as a game changer for the industry, enabling sensors and devices requiring lower throughput, longer battery life and better power efficiency than current IoT solutions. Use cases include vehicle telematics, asset tracking and wearables.
AT&T back in October switched on what it described as North America’s first LTE-M enabled commercial site for a pilot in its AT&T Labs in San Ramon, California. AT&T also plans to make the technology widely available across its commercial network throughout 2017.
Being first has been a tradition at Verizon, and that’s extending into 5G and IoT. Verizon has claimed the title for first deployment of LTE and LTE Cat 1, and it intends to be the first carrier to launch 5G in the U.S. LTE Cat M1 competes with technologies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee and Z-Wave.
Chris Schmidt, executive director, device technology in the Verizon Labs group, told FierceWirelessTech back in October that the operator was already talking to customers and partners about Cat M and reiterated plans to launch at the end of this year, going nationwide in the first quarter of 2017.
Verizon has been working closely with chipset, module and device partners that include Altair, Sequans, U-Blox, Telit, Sierra Wireless, Gemalto, Nokia and Ericsson to drive the ecosystem toward the next-generation of IoT use cases. Cat M1 has particularly popular in the U.S., but that's not to say Europe is not interested in it.
Ericsson announced this week that it participated in Europe’s first successful trial of Cat M1, also known as LTE-M, technology using Ericsson software and a modem from Qualcomm in Dutch telecom operator KPN’s test labs in the Netherlands.
Interestingly, KPN is also invested in LoRa, which since June has been available throughout the Netherlands, making it the first country to have a nationwide LoRa network for IoT applications. LoRa wide area network technology uses unlicensed radio spectrum in the ISM bands to enable low power, wide area communication between remote sensors and "gateways" connected to the network.
KPN says that where LoRa focuses on IoT applications with a battery life up to 15 years and speeds up to 50 Kbps, LTE-M is particularly suitable for applications between 50 Kbps and 1 Mbps and a battery life of several years. LTE-M sits between LoRa, which works well for sensors, and existing 4G M2M, such as infotainment in cars, while typical applications for LTE-M include smart meters, mobile terminals and fleet management.
Ericsson’s Cat M1 trial with KPN used Ericsson software and Qualcomm’s MDM9206 LTE modem on the 800 MHz frequency band. It was conducted after comprehensive interoperability testing of Qualcomm's MDM9206 LTE modem together with Ericsson Networks Software 17A and Ericsson virtual Evolved Packet Core.