One of the many common misconceptions around LTE is that it is just one, single technology. In reality – LTE is much more than that; it is comprised of a range of technologies that fall under the LTE umbrella. And, it must be understood that not all of these technologies are created equal. Different “categories” of LTE, as they are referred to, have been designed for specific purposes, with specific levels of performance, and require specific module makeups.
LTE was first made widely available circa 2010, providing a means for cellular carriers to cater to the consumers demands for high data rates brought about by the rise of the smart phone. To transmit data through this new technology, module devices required complex and costly components that were exponentially more expensive than those of their 2G and even 3G counterparts. While the benefits out-weighed the price tag in the consumer market, the same could not be said for those in the IoT space who had no need for the high-bandwidth data throughput that LTE provides, and no capital for LTE-capable equipment.
Recognizing the need for a long-term, IoT-friendly connectivity solution -- since all carriers adopting LTE will eventually have to shut down their legacy 2G and 3G networks to free up spectrum -- carriers began working on (and are still working on) the launch of new LTE bands that could support cost efficient modules. However, the modules still needed to provide the longevity associated with LTE. Cue the entry of Category 1, Category M1 (often referred to as Cat-M or LTE-M), and Category NB1 (often referred to as NB-IoT) LTE.
To help break things down, here’s a comparison of the most widely talked about categories of LTE:
|Category 4||Category 1||Category M1||Category NB1|
|Approximate/Anticipated Module Cost||$35||$30||$10||$5|
|ETA for Availability||Now||Now||Late 2017||Late 2017|
This is important, especially to those providing IoT solutions, because it provides further evidence that LTE is indeed the superior connectivity solution for IoT applications. By providing long-lasting technology with module price points equivalent to those of 2G or 3G equipment, these newer categories of LTE cater to the unique requirements of the IoT space and will undoubtedly play a critical role to the future of IoT.
Looking for more information around LTE, or best practices for migration to LTE? Contact KORE today.