Telstra has announced support for Category 1 (Cat 1) devices on its LTE network. Cat 1 will enable the network to support devices with much lower cost chips, $5 or less, according to Telstra, with battery life of up to 10 years and will enable the network to penetrate deeper into buildings.
In a blog post on Telstra Exchange, group managing director, Networks, Mike Wright, said that Telstra would also be partnering with its LTE network supplier, Ericsson, and device partners including Sequans Communications to stage trials of the next two IoT- focused iterations of cellular standards later this year.
“Cat 1 will be closely followed by the introduction of both Cat-M which will increase coverage and reduce device cost, and ultimately Narrow Band-IoT (NB-IoT) which is a major new breakthrough in IoT standards.” Wright said.
Unlike Cat-M and NB-IoT, which are still being developed, Cat-1 is not new technology. It was defined in the original 3GPP LTE specifications of 2008, along with categories 2, 3, and 4. According to LTE chipmaker, Sequans, because operators and device makers were focused primarily on the needs of high-speed smartphones and category 3 and 4 technology, category 1 was overlooked.
Cat-1 can support downstream speeds of 10Mbps and upstream of 5Mbps. Cat-M will support a downstream rate of only 300kbps. Sequans already has a Cat-M chipset and says the standard is 99 percent finalised.
NB-IoT is further off. 3GPP took a decision to standardize it in September 2015 and says it will be part of Release 13.
“The rapid spread of LTE networks and the inevitable sunsetting of 2G and 3G networks, has completely changed the scene,” Sequans said. “It is now universally accepted that LTE will be used for nearly everything that requires a wireless connection, including M2M and IoT applications where it was once deemed too expensive and complex — Cat 1 LTE solutions shatter this perception and take on tremendous new importance.”
Cat-M good for wearables
Wright said: “Cat-M will be a good fit for wearables and applications that need to send low to moderate amounts of data, say, more than a few hundred bytes. NB-IoT will be the next big breakthrough in that it will also provide deeper coverage into buildings and extend existing remote and rural penetration beyond our current geographical coverage.
“NB-IoT has a lower data rate than Cat 1 and Cat M and will enable even lower cost devices. NB-IoT introduction will enable operators to support massive numbers of IoT devices on the network. The NB-IoT standard will enable the widespread adoption of the IoT throughout Australia, and across the globe.”
Sequans announced on 19 February that it was providing technology to Telstra for testing on its LTE Cat 1 production network in the first half of 2016. ”Telstra is verifying that LTE Cat 1 devices can coexist with higher category device counterparts on Telstra’s LTE network and is readying its IoT capabilities for deployment
Sequans’ LTE Cat 1 chipset, the Calliope LTE Platform, was introduced last year and is claimed to be the first LTE Cat 1 solution on the market. It has already been operator-certified and deployed in new M2M/IoT device, according to Sequans. It has already won two industry awards—an “IoT Innovations” award from Connected World Magazine, and a “Leading Lights 2015” award for “Most Innovative IoT/M2M Strategy,” from Light Reading.
Is Telstra planning a LoRaWAN network?
Telstra installed a small scale LoRaWAN network in Melbourne for its IoT Challenge last November, and told IoT Australia at the time that it had no plans for a large scale rollout. However in his report Home Tweet Home: Implications of the Connected Home, Human and Habitat on Australian Consumers, ACCAN intern Alex Vulkanovski wrote of “Telstra’s investment in long range wide area networks.” When IoT Australia queried him about this he said that Telstra executives he had interviewed for the report had indicated that Telstra had plans to this effect. Shortly afterwards, ACCAN released an amended version of the report, ostensibly for other reasons, but with this reference removed.
When queried about the change, ACCAN deputy CEO, Narelle Clarke said the reference to an investment “could too easily be inferred that there was an actual ‘asset’ being created, ie a commercial network, beyond that of the knowledge base acquired from trials. I could find no announcement of theirs to back that as happening.”
Telstra talks up agricultural opportunities
In another blog post, Unleashing the Potential of Agricultural Innovation, Telstra industry development executive, Lavina Muscat, talked up Telstra’s opportunities to contribute to innovation in agriculture, saying: “Technology is taking us into a world of constant innovation and competition. It is a time of enormous opportunity. We were at Parliament House in Canberra last week to talk about what these rapid and unexpected changes mean for farming and agriculture.”
However the post said little specific about how Telstra was helping innovation, other than by providing mobile coverage. Agriculture is seen as being ripe for IoT- enabled efficiency gains, and is the primary focus of the new Cisco-led IoT Innovation Centre in Sydney.