Cat M1: separating fact from fiction

Cat M1, also known as LTE Cat M1 or sometimes shortened to simply Cat M is different to Cat 1. Are you keeping up? Sometimes it feels as though there are more acronyms flying around than we can keep up with. It is important to stay up to date on developments around these LPWAN technologies. Many network operators are turning off their 2G and 3G networks. If you have devices in the field which are using 2G or 3G then it’s imperative that you are prepared. You will need to switch to another connectivity option before the sunsetting of these older generations of cellular connectivity force your devices offline.

Here we’re going to talk about LTE Cat M1 – what exactly it is and why it matters.

What exactly is LTE Cat M1?

Cat M1 (Category M1) requires 1.4 MHz of bandwidth and provides average upload speeds between 200kpbs and 400 kpbs. This technology can hugely extend battery life, potentially by up to 10 years. With these speeds, LTE Cat M1 can deliver remote firmware updates OTA (over the air) within reasonable timeframes. The long battery life and ability to conduct updates OTA makes it ideal for extended deployments in the field.

Why is Cat M1 important?

cat high fiveCat M1 offers a significantly smaller bandwidth than other cellular services. However, this is, in fact, an advantage. A vast array of IoT devices only need to transmit very small quantities of data (think of a sensor reporting on temperature once a day). The major advantage of using less bandwidth is that it vastly increases the battery life. For many IoT devices an extended battery life is more important than the ability to transmit large quantities of data.

For many IoT devices cellular connectivity of the sort that you use on your mobile phone to upload photos and stream videos is, simply, overkill. It also uses a huge amount of battery. Think of how often you charge your phone. Then imagine having hundreds of GPS devices monitoring soil humidity spread out across hundreds of fields or a device located an oil rig out at sea. Imagine the headache of having to replace all those batteries and the cost of the downtime that it would require. It’s obviously preferable for these devices to be drawing as little power as possible so that their batteries last as long as possible. These scenarios are where Cat M1 really comes into its own.

When will we see Cat M1?

cat looking up

As the sunsetting of 2G and 3G networks begins to take place its important to be prepared. Radio frequency spectrum is scarce and expensive. In April 2018 O2 paid £205,896,000 for 40MHz of the 2.3GHz spectrum that was being auctioned. This is one of the reasons that MNOs (mobile network operators) are so keen to switch off 2G and 3G services and replace them with narrow-band options.

With the proliferation of connected devices, we will need to plan for an efficient use of radio wave spectrum.

What next? How does this apply to me?

cat looking from behind a tree

There is a baffling array of connectivity options out there, all with their own acronyms (including several with more than one). Fighting your way through this thicket of information can feel like an onerous task.

What you need is to speak to experts, who understand what they’re talking about, and will offer you unbiased advice. Pod is an agnostic provider, meaning that we work with a variety of network options and have no allegiance to any one of them. We will always advise you on the best options according to your needs, not according to what we want to sell.

You can speak to our business development team about your requirements using the chat box below, call us or drop us an email. We’re an international company with offices all over the world. Our in-house support team can solve any problem in 9 different languages, 24 hours a day.

Fact: all these cats are adorable. Fiction: people don’t want to see photos of cats in a technology blog.

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