MADISON, Wis. — With the promise of growth in the cellular IoT market, Sequans (Paris, France) is coming to Las Vegas this week to unveil what the company calls “the world’s first purpose-built Cat M1/NB1 chip” at CTIA’s Super Mobility Week.
Specifically designed for narrowband IoT applications by Release 13 of the 3GPP LTE standard, Cat M1 and Cat NB1 are expected to bring better coverage and a longer battery life to wearable devices, industrial monitors and low-data, sensor-driven IoT networks.
Category M1, also known as LTE-M and Cat M, delivers about 1 Megabit per second (Mbps) maximum in a 1.4 MHz channel. Category NB1, also previously known as NB-IoT, delivers about 40 kilobit per second (kbps) in a 200 kHz channel.
Sam Lucero, senior principal analyst for IoT at IHS Markit Technology, observed that the barriers for cellular network operators [to enter the narrowband IoT] “are falling away rapidly, now that the Release 13 specification was frozen this past June 2016.”
While competitors such as Qualcomm, Intel and Altair (now owned by Sony) are still working on their Cat M1 and NB1 chips, Sequans CEO Georges Karam boasted that Sequans is the first in the industry to sample a Cat M1/NB1 chip, called “Monarch.” Sequans’ trade show demo this week will feature Monarch chips communicating with an LTE eNodeB (base station) emulator.
“We think we are at least nine months ahead of our rivals,” claimed Karam.
Monarch chips are sampling now, and ready for mass production in the fourth quarter this year. Sequans is rolling out three versions — M1, NB1 and a dual-mode (enabled by software).
The emergence of the M1 and NB1 standards frees cellular operators to pursue narrowband IoT more aggressively. “U.S. carriers such as Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are pushing M1 very hard,” observed Karam. Carriers in China are more interested in opting for NB1, he added.
Aapo Markkanen, a principal analyst at Machina Research, described M1 and NB1 as bringing “substantial improvements” to both cellular carriers and designers of IoT devices. “In particular, it will be possible to develop devices that will cost less and will last multiple years on a single battery,” he noted. “Also the network coverage will improve, especially for deep indoors.” Low power
In principle, by adopting Cat-M1, wearable devices such as smartwatches that previously required almost a daily charging routine could now last a month or two without charging, according to the Sequans CEO. Further, by embracing Cat-NB1 standard, sensor devices like smart meters “could live for 10 years on a single AA battery.”
Georges Karam, Sequans CEO (Photo: EE Times)
Although Sequans has declined to give out the exact power consumption required for its Monarch chips, Karam noted, “By design, both M1 and NB1 standards give us substantial energy savings.”
Compared to today’s cellular IoT devices based on LTE Cat 1(designed for IoT devices that need up to 10Mbps data rate, running in a 20MHz channel), new devices using the new LTE CAT M1 standard can run at 1/10 the speed, using 1/10 processing power. Next page: It all depends on use cases