As a worldwide trend, 4G LTE has become the de-facto standard for the next generation of cellular networks. LTE differs from 2G and 3G formats in that it uses an IP-based format specifically designed to support data. The result is a more streamlined network architecture – optimized for data transmission and with improved quality of service (QoS) – capable of running cellular applications that, until just a few years ago, would have been impossible to support.
LTE and the IoT
Several key industries, including public safety and railway communications, are committed to LTE for future private-network deployments. Many machine-to-machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) applications are also transitioning to LTE for greater security, ease of deployment, efficiency, speed, reliability and longevity.
OEMs developing data-intensive IoT applications that benefit from high speeds and low latency are rapidly embracing LTE, while those developing lower-speed applications largely remain with previous-generation cellular modules. Ultimately, though, the advantages of LTE – most notably its longevity, operational efficiency, and scale – are simply too compelling for OEMs and other IoT stakeholders to ignore.
Four Reasons to Upgrade to LTE
The argument in favor of using LTE for IoT applications, even those that operate at lower speeds, centers around four key points:
1. Longevity – 2G and 3G cellular networks may not be around for the lifetime of an IoT product, especially if the product operates in the field for more than just a few years
2. Lower Overall Costs – Prices are coming down for LTE components and LTE cellular, and many LTE vendors now offer comprehensive device-to-cloud solutions that reduce time-to-market and lower development and operational cost.
3. Scalability – Since LTE supports IPv6 addressing, LTE is able to support mass IoT deployments.
4. More Power, More Services, New Business Models – LTE can support increased levels of IoT functionality, creating a whole new class of applications and services.
On the Horizon: LTE-M
Another reason to consider LTE as the future of machine-type communications is the fact that the 3GPP, the organization that oversees the LTE standard, is working on new LTE optimizations specifically designed for IoT applications which will be included in release 13, expected to be finalized in early 2016. These features within Release 13, also known as LTE-M, efficiently integrates with existing LTE services and, at the same time, addresses the specific needs of IoT devices by increasing battery life, simplifying end devices, and enhancing coverage.
LTE-M makes possible a new generation of power-efficient LTE systems that feature fewer hardware components and reduced complexity, without sacrificing coverage or latency. What’s more, LTE-M has a significant impact on device cost by, for example, supporting narrowband operation. Compared to the original LTE standard (LTE Cat-1), the complexity of an LTE-M modem is targeted to be substantially lower.
The Next Phase of IoT Innovation
The LTE-M standard promises to usher in a new era of IoT innovation. The dedicated IoT features included in LTE-M will help enable new types of applications that simply aren’t possible with today’s cellular technology, either because they're too expensive, can’t receive a signal where they’re located, or need too big a battery. LTE-M will also help give a boost to existing applications – such as smart meters, home-automation devices, fire and security systems, and monitoring and tracking systems of all kinds – helping them operate more efficiently and with greater functionality.
With the introduction and completion of the upcoming LTE-M standard, there will be even more incentive for IoT OEMs to adopt LTE. LTE-M promises to benefit the IoT market as a whole, by improving efficiency for OEMs that require high performance and low latency in their IoT applications, and by lowering LTE costs and complexity for those that do not. To learn more about LTE-M, visit the 3GPP website (www.3gpp.org).
Learn More at Embedded World in Nuremberg
Interested in learning more about how your IoT applications can benefit from LTE? Join us at Embedded World in Nuremberg, Germany, where we will dive into the topic at the conference on Thursday, February 26 at 11:30am. You can view the full conference program here.