LTE Cat 1 overview

LTE Category 1 standard was introduced in the 3GPP Release 8 as an introduction to machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. Despite its name, it is the predecessor protocol of the LTE Category 0. It has been available for some time, and since it has become standardized, it has provided the first IoT specific variant of LTE. It is a solid basis for more demanding IoT use-cases, in terms of traffic and features. The downside is that Cat 1 is a simplified form of LTE user equipment, which is not a good platform for many IoT applications, despite the results.

The LTE Category 1 is currently seen as the first practical and commercial cellular IoT technology, which we expect to be in use in many early IoT solutions. The LTE Cat 1 modems have been on the market for some time, making it a field-proven technology. For the sake of the fairness, it shall be compared with standard LTE, rather than with recent iterations of cellular IoT standards. LTE Cat 1 provides better power efficiency than regular LTE user equipment, thanks to extended idle and sleep modes. It also has a lower complexity, making it easier for massive IoT deployments.

According to the actual maximum data rates, LTE Cat 1 is capable of 10 and 5 Mbps for downlink and uplink, respectively, which is something that the newer Cat 0 standard was never designed to achieve. That makes LTE Cat 1 more suitable for bandwidth intensive applications, especially if peak rates need to be on that level.

LTE Cat 1 offers lower latency (50 to 100 msec) compared to the LTE Cat 0. It is a viable solution if data streaming is one of the requirements, and also for the possibility of Voice over LTE (VoLTE) for voice communications. LTE Cat 1 offers voice capabilities, making it a market-ready and versatile option, even if not fully optimized for the wide IoT use-cases. The higher data rates and dual antenna in LTE Cat 1 increase power consumption, if compared to other alternatives.

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