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KPN, Ericsson and Qualcomm put LTE-M to the test

Steve Rogerson
December 8, 2016
Dutch telco KPN has successfully tested LTE-M – also known as LTE Cat-M1 – IoT technology with help from Ericsson and Qualcomm.
The trial took place using Qualcomm Technologies’ test devices with an MDM9206 LTE IoT modem over Ericsson infrastructure. The modem helps device manufacturers cost-effectively address cellular connectivity for low data rate IoT applications more efficiently addressed by a narrowband modem, across various IoT segments, including smart energy and metering, building security, infrastructure, industrial control and automation, retail point of sale, asset tracking, medical, lighting, and aftermarket telematics.
“Qualcomm Technologies is pleased to have been involved in this project with KPN and Ericsson,” said Roberto Di Pietro, vice president, business development for Qualcomm in Europe. “This is a significant milestone in the development of machine type communications. The MDM9206 modem is part of a family of products that have been designed to support a new generation of LTE commercial device capabilities with low-cost, low-power, low-bandwidth and greater coverage for the next-generation of IoT products and services, while also enhancing battery life as compared to previous LTE generations.”
LTE-M can be rolled out on existing 4G networks. The technology is complementary to the recently introduced LoRa network of KPN as well as to existing M2M use cases on 4G.
Where LoRa focuses on IoT use cases with a battery lifetime up to 15 years and a maximum data speed of 50kbit/s, LTE-M focuses on use cases that support data speeds up to 1Mbit/s and a battery lifetime of multiple years, considering frequent communications.
Based on these characteristics, LTE-M can be positioned between LoRa (mainly sensor based applications) and existing 4G M2M (such as infotainment in cars). Typical use cases for LTE-M are payment terminals, electricity meters and fleet management.
LTE-M is regarded by KPN as a future proof alternative for M2M use cases based on 2G and 3G. Up until now the module price of a 4G M2M module was significantly higher than the price of a 2G or 3G M2M module. The introduction of LTE-M will change this. The LTE-M technology was standardised earlier this year in release 13 of the cellular standard 3GPP.
KPN expects that LTE-M modules will become available on a larger scale during 2017. By the end of 2017, the KPN network will also support LTE-M. In addition to the existing M2M services via 2G and 3G, KPN offers with LoRa, LTE-M and 4G M2M what it claims is a complete and future proof IoT connectivity portfolio.