What is LTE Cat M1?
LTE Cat M1 is a low‑power wide‑area (LPWA) air interface that lets you connect IoT and M2M devices with medium data rate requirements (375 kb/s upload and download speeds in half duplex mode). It enables longer battery lifecycles and greater in‑building range, as compared to standard cellular technologies such as 2G, 3G, or LTE Cat 1. Key features include:
- Support of voice functionality via VoLTE
- Full mobility and in‑vehicle hand‑over
- Low power consumption
- Extended in‑building range
LTE Cat M1 is part of the same 3GPP Release 13 standard that also defined Narrowband IoT (NB‑IoT or LTE Cat NB1) - both are LPWA technologies in the licensed spectrum. With uplink and downlink speeds of 375 kb/s in half duplex mode, Cat M1 specifically supports IoT applications with low to medium data rate needs. At these speeds, LTE Cat M1 can deliver remote firmware updates over‑the‑air (FOTA) within reasonable timeframes, making it well‑suited for critical applications running on devices that may be deployed in the field for extended periods of time.
Battery life of up to 10 years on a single charge in some use cases also contributes to lower maintenance costs for deployed devices, even in locations where end devices may not be connected directly to the power grid.
As compared to NB‑IoT, LTE Cat M1 is ideal for mobile use cases, because it handles hand‑over between cell towers much like high speed LTE. For example, if a vehicle moves from point A to point B crossing several different network cells, a Cat M1 device would behave the same as a cellular phone and never drop the connection. An NB‑IoT device, on the contrary, would have to re‑establish a new connection at some point after a new network cell is reached.
Another benefit is the support of voice functionality via VoLTE (voice over LTE), which means it can be used for applications requiring a level of human interaction, such as for certain health and security applications (for example, stay‑in‑place solutions and alarm panels).
u‑blox - an early leader in Cat M1 technology
At u‑blox, we have been working with leading LTE Cat M1 operators to develop Cat M1 modules that meet their network needs.
- Close collaboration with Verizon Wireless in preparation of their LTE Cat M1 US network launch with SARA‑R4, the world's smallest LTE Cat M1 module
- Support of early trials and development of specific product configurations ahead of other MNO Cat M1 network launches
Automotive & transportation
LTE Cat M1 supports full hand‑over between network cells from a moving vehicle and is therefore well‑suited for mobile use cases with low to medium data rate needs, such as vehicle tracking, asset tracking, telematics, fleet management and usage‑based insurance.
Cat M1 is also ideal for monitoring metering and utility applications via regular and small data transmissions. Network coverage is a key issue in smart metering rollouts. Since meters are commonly located inside buildings or basements, Cat M1's extended range leads to better coverage in hard‑to‑reach areas.
Cat M1 can easily provide basic building management functionality, such as HVAC, lighting, and access control with its enhanced indoor range. Since it is also features voice functionality via VoLTE, it is also well‑suited for critical applications like security systems and alarm panels.
Due to its extended in‑building range, voice support, and mobility, Cat M1 is also a well‑matched air interface choice for connected health applications, such as outpatient monitoring and stay‑in‑place solutions.
Within smart cities, Cat M1 can meet a variety of needs and effectively control street lighting, determine waste management pickup schedules, identify free parking spaces, monitor environmental conditions, and survey the condition of roads in a matter of milliseconds.