Dutch mobile operator KPN has trialled the new Internet of Things (IoT) technology LTE-M (also known as LTE Cat-M1). LTE-M uses licensed cellular technology to provide low power, wide area network connectivity for IoT devices.
The operator said the LTE-M technology is complementary to its recently introduced LoRa network (pictured), which runs on unlicensed spectrum, as well as to existing machine-to-machine (M2M) use cases on 4G. KPN performed the trial together with network vendor Ericsson and chipset supplier Qualcomm Technologies.
Where LoRa focuses on IoT use cases with a battery lifetime up to 15 years and a maximum data speed of 50 Kbps, LTE-M focuses on use cases that support data speeds up to 1 Mbps and a battery lifetime of multiple years, considering frequent communication.
Based on these characteristics, LTE-M can be positioned between LoRa (mainly sensor based applications) and existing 4G M2M (such as infotainment in cars). Typical use cases for LTE-M are payment terminals, electricity meters and fleet management.
LTE-M is regarded by KPN as a future proof alternative for M2M use cases based on 2G and 3G. Up until now the module price of a 4G M2M module was significantly higher than the price of a 2G or 3G M2M module. The introduction of LTE-M will change this. The LTE-M technology was standardised earlier this year in Release 13 of the cellular standard 3GPP.
KPN expects that LTE-M modules will become available on a larger scale in the course of 2017. By the end of 2017, the KPN network will also support LTE-M. In addition to the existing M2M services via 2G and 3G, KPN offers with LoRa, LTE-M and 4G M2M a complete and future proof IoT connectivity portfolio.