The Goal for Category M1: Let the IoT Be All It Can Be

Carl Weinschenk

The incredible potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) is the possibility that it will connect everything: From containers in the bowels of ships in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, to factory floors in Detroit, to exercise software in Pasadena.

Of course, these things won’t all be connected to each other. They will, however, be broadly included in a logically connected worldwide network of networks.

That’s a nice notion. The tricky part, of course, is figuring out how to do it. In some cases, IoT networking will require high speeds and significant amounts of data to be transmitted. A remote diagnostic procedure on an at-risk patient must do more than report every five minutes that the subject has a heartbeat.

But there are virtually endless applications that require very little data to be transmitted. This huge class of applications will often be supported by LTE Category M1 (LTE-M). RCR Wireless provides looks at how Capstone Metering, one of AT&T’s early adopters of LTE-M, is using the technology.


Capstone Metering, which is already used by 148,000 water authorities in the United States, offers leak detection and provides analysis necessary to change use patterns. The meter-as-a-service approach is sold through AT&T and Capstone. It’s a far more economical and effective approach than deploying field staffs to manually check meters. Cat M-1 could make its business more robust and efficient and cut its costs.

A good primer of Cat M-1 is offered by DZone, where the sense is that the technology could end up being the cohesive, ubiquitous glue that holds the IoT together and give it a chance to fulfill its promise. (Of course, myriad other questions – from standards to use cases – also must be solved for this to happen.)

The technical explanation is that Cat M1 uses 1.4 MHz of spectrum and offers average upload speeds of 200 kilobits per second (kbps) to 400 kbps. Perhaps most importantly, it has a battery life as long as 10 years. The piece cites coverage, security and efficiency as other advantages. It will also be freely available:

The fact that Verizon will launch it with an open environment will ensure ubiquity, the factor that makes trends go real. Now, more makers and developers will be able to launch IoT projects.

Cat-M1 announcements are appearing with frequency. At Mobile World Congress (MWC) last week in Barcelona, Rhode & Schwarz said that it’s working with Qualcomm to “verify operation” of the MDM9206 global Cat M1/Cat NB-1 dual mode LTE modem for use on the narrowband IoT.

Last month, Ericsson reported that it and Sierra Wireless successfully conducted network and device testing of LTE-M networking on Telefonica’s Spanish network. The test, the release said, validated interoperability of Cat-M1 functionality in chipsets used in Sierra Wireless modems running in Ericsson’s Packet Core and Radio equipment.

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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