Verizon vows to launch LTE Cat M1 for the IoT this year

Verizon store front (Monica Alleven)

Verizon announced plans to deploy LTE Category M1 by the end of the year, claiming it will become the first U.S. operator to launch the new technology.

Cat M1 is an IoT-centric flavor of LTE that uses 1.4 MHz of spectrum to deliver 300 kbps to 400 kbps. It appears to resemble a 2G GPRS connection but supports a device battery life of 10 years or longer, and it is designed to connect sensor applications and devices requiring lower throughput.

“Up until now, the cost to connect devices to a wide-area network has been a barrier to widespread IoT," Rosemary McNally, vice president of mobile devices and operating systems technology at Verizon, said in a press release. “By evolving our device ecosystem to include Cat M1, we’re aligning Verizon’s 4G LTE network to the needs of future IoT deployments. We are also taking direct aim at emerging low power wireless access (LPWA) solutions, which have entered the U.S. market, but do not offer the same level of scale, coverage and security as LTE.”

Verizon touted Cat M1 as “a game-changer for the industry,” saying supporting chipsets will lower the costs of developing and deploying IoT devices on a large scale. And that would enable carriers to better compete with providers of services using technologies such as Bluetooth, ZigBee and Z-Wave.

Verizon’s partners in the Cat M1 segment include infrastructure companies, chipset vendors and device manufacturers including Altair, Sequans, U-Blox, Telit, Sierra Wireless, Gemalto, Nokia and Ericsson.

Cat M1 is just one of the NB-IoT (Narrow-Band IoT) LTE technologies aimed at connecting M2M gadgets; others include Cat 1 and Cat M2. The standard for Cat M2 was ratified earlier this year.

The developing LTE technologies will increasingly enable carriers to compete in the IoT not just against each other but also against vendors of networks dedicated for IoT use cases. ABI Research predicted earlier this year that LTE M2M cellular modules will grow to more than 50 percent of total module shipments by 2021, with much of that growth being driven by businesses and consumers in North America.

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