Sequans, Gemalto highlight low-power (and low-speed) IoT solutions for LTE

Next week at CTIA's Super Mobility conference in Las Vegas there's likely going to be a great deal of focus on LTE and the transition to faster speeds for 5G networks. However, chipset and wireless module specialists Sequans Communications and Gemalto want to take the speed down quite a few notches and put the emphasis on low power and slow speeds with LTE solutions designed specifically for the Internet of Things.

Both companies are banking on relatively new chipset solutions, known as LTE Category 1 and Category 0, to make it easier and more affordable for M2M device makers and Internet of Things solutions to use LTE networks. The basic bet is that most IoT devices, which are typically not sending large amounts of data, do not need the fast speeds and low latencies that LTE affords. Further, super-fast products (like LTE Cat 4 ad Cat 6 chips) are too costly and power hungry for M2M scenarios.

Thus, Gemalto yesterday unveiled what it says is the industry's first LTE Cat 1 wireless module designed for M2M and IoT applications. The company's new Cinterion ELS3 M2M module, which is based around Sequans' chipset technology, features power-optimized performance and maximum speeds of up to 10 Mbps downlink and 5 Mbps uplink. Gemalto said the solution is ideal for applications like smart metering, tracking and tracing, fleet management and mobile healthcare.

Gemalto said the form factor of the new Cat 1 module is the same as its existing 2G/3G modules, meaning they can be swapped into existing devices fairly easily. The company also said it thinks device makers can potentially adopt future LTE standards, like Cat 0, in the future. 

Meanwhile, Sequans said it will partner with Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) to demonstrate Cat 0 solutions at CTIA. Cat 0 effectively caps throughput speeds at 1 Mbps, as defined in LTE Release 12.

Specifically, Sequans said it is using a software-modified version of its Calliope CAT 1 LTE platform for the product, which it said will include half-duplex operation and reduced peak throughput, both of which the company said will result in lower cost, smaller modules and reduced power consumption.

While Cat 1 and Cat 0 solutions are becoming more prominent, it's unclear at this point how much demand there is in the industry for such offerings, as many M2M devices still run on 2G networks. However, as 2G networks get turned off in the next few years as carriers look to refarm spectrum for LTE, IoT device makers will need to decide whether to embrace Cat 1 and Cat 0 solutions, wait for IoT solutions geared toward 5G standards, or to look for other offerings like those from Sigfox, which focuses on low-power, wide area technologies.

For more:
- see this IDG News Service article
- see this Sequans release
- see this Gemalto release

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Making LTE lighter, cheaper (and slower) for the Internet of Things
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