AT&T and Sierra Wireless to trial LTE-M LPWAN modules for IoT

US carrier and Sierra to begin pilots in San Francisco Bay Area of licensed cellular low power, wide area network LTE Cat-M1 IoT modules following completion of specifications by 3GPP earlier this year

AT&T and Sierra Wireless to trial LTE-M LPWAN modules for IoT

Sierra Wireless and AT&T are to undertake trials of LTE-M low power, wide area network (LPWAN) licensed cellular technologies for Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The Sierra Wireless LTE-M module will support the AT&T pilot with several technology leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area in November 2016.

The specifications for LTE-M1 (as it is officially known) were completed by standards body 3GPP at the beginning of this year. It is one of three 3GPP technologies designed to support low, power wide area IoT devices in licensed spectrum. The other two are LTE Cat-NB1 (better known as NB-IoT), for which the specifications were completed in June, and EC-GSM-IoT, which uses GSM spectrum.

LTE-M1 and LTE-NB1 are both based on LTE technology and provide a licensed spectrum alternative to existing LPWAN standards that use unlicensed spectrum such as Sigfox, LoRa and Ingenu.

As such they are particular appealing to mobile network operators, which can utilise their existing LTE spectrum and infrastructure with only a software upgrade to their base stations. LTE Cat-M1 is first out of the blocks as it was completed six months ahead of LTE Cat-NB1 (modules are expected in H2 2017).

The LTE-M specification is designed to work specifically with IoT devices, such as smart meters, mHealth and wearables. AT&T plans to make the technology commercially available in 2017.

LTE-M technology benefits IoT applications that only need to send small amounts of data and do not require much bandwidth. Key attributes include:

• Lower costs for gateway modules to the LTE network
• Longer battery life; 10+ years for enabled IoT devices
• Better LTE coverage underground and in building areas that challenge existing coverage.

“Our work with Sierra Wireless will help drive the benefits of LTE-M to a broad range of businesses and industries,” said Chris Penrose, SVP, Internet of Things Solutions, AT&T. “Our customers that use industrial, Smart Cities and wearable solutions are eager to tap into these new tools.”

“Millions of new IoT devices and services require low-power, low-cost cellular connectivity, which Low Power Wide Area technologies like LTE-M are designed to deliver,” said Dan Schieler, SVP, OEM Solutions, Sierra Wireless. “This pilot will show how LTE-M will connect a new generation of IoT applications.”

Sierra Wireless AirPrime LTE-M modules, part of the industry-leading HL Series, are expected to be commercially available in the first half of 2017. The HL Series uses the CF3 form factor, which is footprint-compatible across product lines and network technologies. And it’s fully interchangeable with current and future modules, according to Sierra Wireless.

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