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Cellular Meets IoT in Qualcomm’s New LTE Push

Cellular Meets IoT in Qualcomm’s New LTE Push
by Majeed Ahmad on 11-01-2015 at 5:00 am

Qualcomm buckles up for 4G machine communications and the technologies it has picked hint on the most likely winners in the crowded space of the Internet of Things (IoT) standards for machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.

In retrospect, Qualcomm picked Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology early on and hugely benefited from its bet on LTE technology instead of WiMAX during the 4G wireless standard duel. Now the San Diego, California–based chipmaker has announced two LTE modems for a growing array of IoT markets.

The MDM9207-1 chipset—aimed at markets such as surveillance, industrial automation, smart metering, wearables and asset tracking—provides Category 1 LTE connectivity with data speeds of up to 10 Mbps for downlink and 5 Mbps for uplink. Qualcomm’s new chip comprises of a modem with 3G/4G LTE multimode and multiband support and a Cortex-A7 application processor for Linux-based applications development.

Furthermore, the chipset offers power saving features for both devices that require persistent connection as well as the ones that need periodic and infrequent communication with the network. Qualcomm claims that the features such as Power Save Mode (PSM) can enable battery lifetime of as long as 10 years.

Qualcomm’s two new chipsets highlight LTE’s growing footprint in the IoT realm
(Image: Qualcomm)

It’s worth noting that Category 1 LTE provides much of the same advantage in terms of cost and power consumption compared to the upcoming Cat 0 LTE standard while it requires no infrastructure changes.

That poses questions about the future of Category 0 LTE standard that offers lower data rates for M2M-like applications but offers marginal benefits over Category 1 LTE specification. Moreover, while Category 0 LTE standard defines narrower bandwidths and reduction in complexity, it also requires upgrades in the infrastructure.

And the doubts about the future of Category 0 boost the prospects of the next LTE iteration—Category M or eMTC—an LTE standard aimed to differentiate 4G cellular for machine-type traffic. The MDM9206 chipset announced by Qualcomm is optimized for low data rate IoT applications and will support both Category M and narrowband IoT (NB-IOT) standards.

Narrowband IoT is a 3G-based network technology that has been designed for low-speed data transfer to and from devices that rely on batteries. A nod to Qualcomm’s pick came just a few weeks before the announcement of the MDM9206 chip. The international body responsible for LTE technology standardization acknowledged the NB-IOT standard in a workshop held in Phoenix, Arizona.

Qualcomm’s pick of Cat 1, Cat-M and NR-IOT offers hints on the shaping of IoT’s cellular side
(Image: Qualcomm)

The LTE technology has redefined cellular communications on smartphones and tablets, and now its impact is rapidly expanding in the IoT realm. While LTE is a reality, the announcement of LTE-based IoT chips from the top smartphone chipmaker is a testament that IoT is now a business reality as well.

And it’s unfolding rather quickly, as the smartphone revolution happened during the late 2000s. Not to mention that Qualcomm has been one of the major beneficiaries of the smartphone take-off. Now it’s the LTE side of the IoT infrastructure that Qualcomm is eyeing.

Also read:

Computer Vision in Mobile SoCs and the Making of Third Processor After CPU and GPU

Snapdragon 820 SoC Finds Qualcomm at Crossroads

ARM Server Chips: What Qualcomm Wants?

Majeed Ahmad is author of the books Smartphone: Mobile Revolution at the Crossroads of Communications, Computing and Consumer Electronics and The Next Web of 50 Billion Devices: Mobile Internet’s Past, Present and Future.

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