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AT&T Readies Low-Power LTE for IoT

Dan Jones

Ahead of CES and its developers conference in Las Vegas, AT&T is introducing low-cost 4G LTE modules aimed at companies wanting to develop wireless products for Internet of Things (IoT) sector.

One module is designed to reduce the energy requirements of the power-hungry 4G radio, addressing one of the more pressing issues involved with using LTE for networking battery-powered devices. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), which has worked with Wistron Corp. to develop the modules, says that the snappily named "M14A2A -- LTE Only Category 1" unit sports improved efficiency and battery life for idle devices, compared with other LTE modules.

One of the ways to reduce the power drain on LTE devices is to make the device idle -- or "sleep" -- when it isn't required to transmit data. Networked devices like sensors or networked appliances might not need to send data more than once a day, or even less, so could sleep for the rest of the time, improving battery life. (See CES 2016: 3 Big Tech & TV Trends to Watch.)

Wistron will offer other module options such as the "M14Q2 -- Category 1" and "M18Q2 – Category 3" units, which will offer fallback to 3G networks as well as LTE connectivity. The modules are expected to start at prices of $14.99 each, plus tax, starting in the second quarter.

For more on IoT trends, visit the Internet of Things channel on Light Reading.

AT&T is not the first company to alight on this concept. Startups including Altair Semiconductor , as well as companies such as Sequans Communications , have been talking about category 1 LTE for machine-to-machine communications for a couple of years. The market to deliver radio modules that can be used with other companies' IoT devices is clearly getting hotter as more networked devices come on the market.

Major vendors and carriers are also backing standards work behind developing low-powered LTE-M and ultra-low-powered Narrow-Band LTE (NB-LTE) specifications for IoT applications. NB-LTE testing is expected to start testing this year.

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— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Sabre
1/18/2016 | 10:35:38 AM
Re: What's in a name?
It does seem like an odd name. I wonder if the $15 price tag though is cost efficient enough to get lots of sales? The tradeoff would be the cost vs. the savings in the device "sleeping" when not needed.  I'm not sure that's going to work for a lot of devices. 
User Rank: Blogger
1/5/2016 | 12:19:52 PM
Re: What's in a name?
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/5/2016 | 12:13:49 PM
What's in a name?
<the snappily named "M14A2A -- LTE Only Category 1" unit > Maybe they really think the name has appeal if they associate it with R2-D2, C3-PO, or the newest Star Wars droid BB-8
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