LTE Will Make the IoT Run

Carl Weinschenk
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It is interesting to note that LTE is seen as a growing conveyance for Internet of Things (IoT) traffic. In many ways, it isn’t surprising. It’s not perfect -- but it’s the platform at hand.

3G and even 2G networks still exist and are fast enough to handle most IoT traffic. However, the move definitely is to LTE. It makes sense. Millions and millions of modules must be built. It doesn’t make sense to use antiquated technology. Indeed, the LTE networks that are state of the art today will themselves be antiquated in a half-decade or so when 5G arrives. Thus, it makes sense to put LTE to work on the IoT, even if they are not a perfect technical match.

This week, AT&T announced a family of LTE modules aimed at the IoT. The modules, according to eWeek, are designed for both LTE only and LTE/3G networks. The M14A2A-LTE Only Category 1 is designed, according to the story, to limit power draw when the device is idle. The M14Q2-Category 1 and M18Q2 Category 3 offer 3G fallback. The family of devices is being produced by the carrier by Wistron NeWeb.


Sequans Communications made an announcement this week that also involved AT&T. The company said that its Colibri LTE chipset platform has passed the carrier’s ADAPT chipset verification program and therefore can be used on its LTE network. The chipset platform is optimized for machine-to-machine (M2M) and IoT uses, the story at StreetInsider says.

Verizon is in the act as well. Its ThingSpace, an IoT application development platform, is expected to use LTE. The company seems to be trying to make existing technology relevant for the explosion of the IoT. This is how Kevin Farnham puts it at InfoQ:

The new technologies utilize Verizon's existing wireless communications network, but in a stripped-down manner suitable for IoT data as opposed to human-to-human communication. Verizon Vice President of IoT and Connected Solutions Mark Bartolomeo says the ThingSpace back-end is more streamlined because it doesn't need to carry out all the tasks required by advanced devices like smartphones. Meanwhile, the emergence of less expensive wireless modems like the Sequans LTE module addresses the historic problem of high wireless transmission costs for IoT data.

All of this retrofitting of old technology into new platforms is being done for a reason. The IoT is going to be big and any head start of keeping pace is welcome by the entire ecosystem. We all know that. Just to drive the point home a bit more, Swedish research firm Berg Insights says that the cellular M2M sector will grow significantly.

Huge predictions for the IoT continue to pile up. In a late December story, Datamation reported that Berg expected that there were 265.2 million M2M subscribers worldwide by the end of last year. That’s a 23 percent increase over the year before. East Asia led with 90.4 million connections. Western Europe was second at 59 million and North America showed at 52.5 million.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.



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