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15 May 2024 / by Brian Chou

Are you deploying IoT applications such as payment terminals, parking meters, connected solutions for healthcare or home and security? These applications must not only operate efficiently within tight power and budget constraints but also maintain reliable performance on a global scale. Furthermore, the development of these connected devices frequently takes place under strict space limitations, demanding a compact connectivity solution that does not sacrifice performance. 

 

Enter the LTE Cat-1 bis technology — a game-changer in the IoT world. 

LTE Cat-1 bis, introduced in the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Release 13 standard, marks a significant advancement towards streamlining deployments for IoT applications that require a delicate balance between performance and power consumption.  

What sets LTE Cat-1 bis apart is its streamlined design that accommodates single antenna operation, catering to the specific needs of IoT applications. By optimizing network resources, LTE Cat-1 bis ensures dependable connectivity while keeping power consumption in check, making it an ideal solution for a wide array of IoT deployments. 

A new Balance Between Performance and Efficiency 

Leveraging the expansive coverage and performance capabilities of 4G networks, LTE Cat-1 bis modules can achieve impressive data speeds of up to 10Mbps for downlink and 5Mbps for uplink, all while providing global coverage. However, in a departure from the dual-antenna requirement seen in LTE Cat-1 modules, LTE Cat-1 bis modules require a single receive (Rx) antenna and a single receive RF chain. This streamlined design makes LTE Cat-1 bis modules easier and less expensive to build, opening new avenues for creativity and innovation in IoT product development. 
 
Another key advantage of the LTE Cat-1 bis technology is its energy efficiency through the combination of the streamlined design and two sleep modes: extended discontinuous reception (eDRX) and power-saving mode (PSM). 

These power saving features are commonly used in NB-IoT and LTE-M networks to allow devices to stay in sleep mode longer, thereby saving power. This is particularly suited to applications with regular or predictable data transmission cycles, such as smart metering or asset tracking.  
Both eDRX and PSM features apply to Cat-1 bis modules, enabling IoT applications to operate for extended periods on battery-powered devices. 

It's important to note, however, that power consumption is highly dependent on how the device is operated. The more data required to be processed, the higher the power consumption incurred by the device. For delay-tolerant use cases, LTE Cat-1 bis modules can spend most of their time in sleep mode, waking only as needed to perform tasks like sensor data uploads or delta firmware updates over-the-air, optimizing energy use and extending device lifespan. 

This unique blend of features positions the Cat-1 bis technology as a popular option for IoT devices that prioritize power efficiency and cost-effectiveness without compromising on performance: 

 

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Smart Metering

Given that smart meters boast an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years, selecting a connectivity option that optimizes power consumption is crucial. Thanks to their predictable data transmission patterns, smart meters can fully harness the power saving modes of LTE Cat-1 bis modules. Furthermore, LTE Cat-1 bis supports a wide coverage area, enabling seamless communication even in remote or hard-to-reach locations. This ensures that utility providers can maintain a consistent and reliable connection to their smart metering infrastructure, facilitating accurate and timely billing, reducing operational costs, and enhancing customer service. With the added benefit of being cost-effective, LTE Cat-1 bis modules provide a sustainable and efficient solution for the next generation of smart metering applications. 
As Utilities are increasingly turning to private LTE networks – such as Anterix – for their robust, secure, and reliable communication needs, smart meter providers should look for LTE Cat-1 bis modules that support private networking bands and notably Band 8 (Anterix).

 

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Fleet Management 

LTE Cat-1 bis modules are also a great fit for fleet management applications, such as e-Bike fleets. These modules provide the dual benefits of energy efficiency and reliable, high-speed connectivity, which are essential for the real-time tracking and management of e-Bikes. This ensures that operators can monitor bike locations, optimize routes, and perform remote diagnostics with minimal latency, enhancing operational efficiency and user satisfaction. The energy-efficient nature of LTE Cat-1 bis also aligns perfectly with the eco-friendly ethos of e-Bike fleets, ensuring that the connectivity solution does not significantly impact the battery life of the bikes. Plus, their wide coverage guarantees seamless communication across urban and rural areas alike, enabling a robust and responsive e-Bike fleet management system. Cost-effective and designed for the IoT era, LTE Cat-1 bis modules represent a future-proof connectivity solution that can help e-Bike fleet operators scale efficiently while maintaining high service standards. 

 

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Healthcare Applications

LTE Cat-1 bis modules are well-suited for IoT devices in healthcare settings that demand extended battery life, such as sleep apnea monitoring solutions. These medical devices transmit real-time data on breathing patterns and sleep quality to healthcare providers, enabling timely intervention and personalized treatment plans for patients with sleep disorders. The power-efficient and cost-effective nature of Cat-1 bis modules plays a crucial role in enhancing longevity and facilitating widespread deployment of these devices. 
With global coverage, Cat-1 bis modules can also be leveraged in mobile healthcare solutions, such as elderly tracking.  

 

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Sales and Payment Solutions

Cat-1 bis is also a popular connectivity option in sales and payment applications, especially in high-traffic environments such as gas stations. The improved power efficiency and reliable connectivity of Cat-1 bis modules make them ideal for seamless integration into mobile payment agents. With the low latency and adequate data speeds offered by LTE Cat-1 technology, transactions can be processed swiftly, enhancing the overall customer experience. Additionally, the global footprint and cost-effectiveness of Cat-1 bis modules enable operators to deploy efficient and scalable payment solutions streamlining sales processes and enhancing payment convenience for customers.

 

Semtech’s new Cat-1 bis RC71 modules - Simplicity at Their Core 

 

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One of the primary design principles behind Semtech’s RC7110 and RC7120 LTE Cat-1 bis modules is simplicity. Both modules leverage the compact CF3 (Common Flexible Form Factor) design allowing flexibility in transitioning between various wireless technologies. This standardized design not only facilitates migration from Cat-1 or other cellular technologies to Cat-1 bis but also future-proofs designs, enabling IoT products built on a highly scalable module platform. 

 
RC71 modules combine the advantages of LTE Cat-1 bis technology with Semtech’s wireless expertise and field-proven performance, ensuring that IoT solutions built on this platform are not only cost-effective but also highly optimized for various applications. Ideal for smart city deployments, asset tracking, home security, and healthcare applications, these LTE Cat-1 bis modules also support private networking with Band 8 (Anterix) compatibility. This capability empowers utilities in the U.S. to establish their own 900MHz private network, providing a secure and reliable communication infrastructure for critical operations. 

 

Selecting the Right Technology for Your Application 

While Cat-1 bis technology presents a compelling connectivity option for applications seeking a balance between performance and power efficiency, it's crucial to understand that every technology has its nuances and limitations. With over 30 years of wireless expertise and a robust portfolio spanning Lora®, LPWA, LTE, and 5G solutions, Semtech's team of experts is equipped to assist in evaluating the most suitable technology for your specific needs. 

For further insights and guidance, consider delving deeper into our "Top 5 Factors for Choosing the Right Connectivity Technologies " webinar, where industry experts share valuable insights on selecting the ideal IoT technology for sustained success.  
Let's navigate the IoT landscape together! Contact us to talk to an IoT expert. 

 

Topics: Smart Supply Chain Logistics, Internet of Things, Smart Water Metering, Smart Electricity Metering, Smart Gas Metering, 5G, Smart Healthcare, Smart Connectivity

Written by Brian Chou

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