20 Jan 2023

LTE Cat 1

LTE Cat 1 is a medium speed LTE standard designed for more feature-rich IoT applications that require higher data speeds.

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.

Infographic presenting the evolution of high speed celular

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

infographics presenting key benefits of LTE Cat 1

LTE Cat 1 Applications

infographic presenting key applications for LTE Cat 1

man with the tablet in smart factory

Industrial automation and monitoring

LTE Cat 1 technology offers sufficient data speeds and the low latency required for many Industrial applications, such as process monitoring, process control, or access control systems. Video and voice support over VoLTE are also supported, such as for access control systems (remote door opening) and alarm services.

man in front of the fleet of trucks


Many basic aspects of a fleet’s vehicles and assets are already being monitored using cellular LTE coverage. Parameters of importance include mileage, location, stops, engine usage, hours of service, and diagnostic information for monitoring the condition of the vehicle. LTE Cat 1 provides cellular in-vehicle handover, which means connections aren't lost in a moving vehicle.

contactless payment via credit card

Payments and vending

Connected and portable POS systems, ATMs, and vending machines rely on low latency data communication to validate ATM or credit card information. LTE Cat 1’s low latency capability coupled with low power consumption make it very suitable for use in retail or hospitality applications.

street camera hanging on the lamp

Smart city / video surveillance

Many municipalities are using video surveillance and traffic cameras for public safety functions. Often it is difficult to connect these cameras through a wired connection. As a 3GPP-licensed technology, cellular connectivity provides reliable, secure service at speeds that are high enough to transmit high quality HD video.

woman setting up smart panel in her smart home

Smart buildings / smart home

Cat 1 technology has sufficient data speeds for many video surveillance use cases, while also supporting voice services via VoLTE (Voice over LTE). Many alarm services require a voice connection in case of an emergency and many home surveillance solutions make use of fixed‑position HD cameras connected to the cellular network, which allow people to monitor their homes, belongings and even pets, while they’re away from home.

patient in hospital hooked up to monitoring devices


VoLTE is also an important feature for many connected health applications, especially for stay-in-place solutions, outpatient monitoring and mobile medical alert systems, allowing seniors and others with medical needs to communicate directly with a service center or family member. In most regions, LTE Cat 1 has broad coverage through existing LTE networks, limiting concerns about gaps in connectivity.