LTE Cat 1 is a medium speed LTE standard with speeds up to 10 Mbit/s downlink and 5 Mbit/s uplink. It is designed for a vast number of feature-rich IoT applications that require higher data speeds, and some that require video streaming and voice support.
LTE Cat 1 is the lowest cost LTE category that still has the required speeds to support data streaming and full mobility. The high-speed LTE categories – LTE Cat 4 and higher – come at a higher power consumption and complexity, like MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) that leads to a higher total cost. The low-speed LTE categories developed specifically for Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications provide optimized long battery life cycles and greater in-building penetration but are limited by their low data rates and the regional coverage.
In addition to having a good data throughput, LTE Cat 1 also supports VoLTE (Voice Over LTE), which is implemented in almost every LTE network worldwide. For this reason, LTE Cat 1 is gaining importance as the best candidate to replace legacy 2G and 3G cellular technologies.
2G and 3G technologies survived in the IoT ecosystem until the 2020s thanks to their global coverage. But now most MNOs are announcing or have already executed the 2G/3G switch-off and are migrating the related frequencies to 4G/5G. Considering the non-homogeneous coverage provided by cellular LPWA, including NB-IoT and LTE-M, LTE Cat 1 is the cheapest cellular technology that allows true global coverage with good data speed at relatively low cost.
With the sunset of 2G/3G, LTE Cat 1 represents the best migration path for low and medium data rate applications (those previously based on 2G or low-end 3G) whereas LTE Cat 4 is the best migration path for high data rate applications (those previously based on high-end 3G).
In comparison to high speed 4G LTE categories, such as Cat 4 and greater, LTE Cat 1 provides:
- Low power consumption with extended idle and sleep modes
- Less complexity, resulting in a lower cost structure
- Lower solution implementation cost
In comparison to IoT-specific technologies, such as LTE-M or NB-IoT, LTE Cat 1 supports:
- Voice over LTE (VoLTE)
- Data streaming
- Low latency applications
- Global coverage because it connects to any LTE network
- Mobile connectivity and handover (handover is supported by LTE-M but not by NB-IoT)
From LTE Cat 1 to LTE Cat 1bis
In the effort to create a simpler and cheaper 4G solution with worldwide coverage a new stripped version of Cat 1 has been developed: LTE Cat 1bis.
Cat 1bis provides the same throughput and capabilities of LTE Cat 1 but it does not implement RX diversity. It requires only one RX antenna instead of the two RX antennas required by LTE Cat 1. The hardware is simpler, and its integration requires less effort and fewer parts leading to a lower total solution cost.
As a trade-off, with only one RX antenna Cat 1bis devices lose 3 dB in RX sensitivity compared to standard Cat 1. This means that Cat 1bis does not ensure the same coverage capabilities at the edge of the cell compared to Cat 1.
An important point to be considered is that, while LTE Cat 1 is standardized worldwide, LTE Cat 1bis is not. For instance, in APAC and EMEA, LTE Cat 1bis is accepted by most MNOs whereas in North America a Cat 1bis applications can work in roaming but cannot be certified by local MNOs.
The cost difference between LTE Cat 1 and Cat 1bis is not negligible and could lead to the massive adoption of Cat 1bis for low tier solutions that do not target North American market.
LTE Cat 1 Features
LTE Cat 1 Applications