Ericsson and Orange are to trial optimised, low-cost, low-complexity devices and enhanced network capabilities for cellular IoT over GSM and LTE. Currently, IoT applications have to either use expensive 2G, 3G or 4G cellular solutions, which are often not appropriate for low cost, low throughput IoT applications, or use proprietary low power, wide area network (LPWAN) solutions, which have the drawback of requiring their own infrastructure.
Ericsson argues that cellular can be a good foundation for IoT uptake given its advantages of global reach, reliability and security using licensed spectrum. However, it first needs to be evolved to meet particular requirements of low cost, low throughput devices brought on by massive IoT deployments.
Cellular network and device capability enhancements are being driven through the standardisation process at 3GPP to meet emerging requirements of ubiquitous coverage, long battery life and low-cost devices, enabled through software upgrades of existing networks. This is a key enabler in Orange's strategy to become a major player in the Internet of Things.
Improved indoor coverage
The two-companies are looking to deploy what is referred to as EC-GSM (Extended Coverage), which takes a similar approach to how 4G is being adapted to make it usable for LPWAN use, but applies it to GSM – this will enable mobile operators to use their existing 2G spectrum and infrastructure.
Ericsson and Orange are claiming that the world’s first EC-GSM trial will be conducted in France using the 900 MHz band, with the aim to enhance device reachability by up to 20dB or a seven-fold improvement in the range of low-rate applications.
The idea is EC-GSM will further extend the global coverage of GSM in Europe and Africa to reach challenging locations such as deep indoor basements, where many smart meters are installed, or remote areas in which sensors are deployed for agriculture or infrastructure monitoring use cases.
In addition, EC-GSM will reduce device complexity and thus lower costs, enabling large-scale IoT deployments. Another advantage of this technology is enablement by software upgrades of existing cellular networks, providing nationwide IoT coverage without additional hardware investments.
Reduced IoT device cost
In parallel, the world's first LTE IoT trial in partnership with Sequans will take place using low-cost, low-complexity devices with one receive antenna (instead of two), and half-duplex FDD .This simplifies the device hardware architecture and reduces expensive duplex filters, allowing for 60 percent cost reduction in comparison with existing LTE Cat 4.
Extended battery life
In partnership with Sequans, Ericsson will also demonstrate energy efficiency over GSM and LTE networks with Power Saving Mode (PSM) technology. The PSM feature is applicable to both GSM and LTE, and supported by Evolved Packet Core (EPC). It enables extended battery life of communication modules such as sensors by up to 10 years thanks to optimized, power-efficient operations.
Sequans Communications is the first chipset manufacturer to develop MTC (machine type communications) LTE devices able to fit with connected form factors. Among possible solutions, there will be sensors, smart metering, assets tracking, and wearables.
Ericsson said that cellular networks optimised for IoT will be operational in 2017.
See also: In search of the low-power wide area network standard for IoT