Light Reading

Getting 4G Ready for IoT

Dan Jones

Operators and vendors in the 3GPP are doing a lot of work to make LTE specifications more applicable to machine-to-machine (M2M) communications so that 4G can provide network support for the Internet of Things (IoT).

The standards body has working groups now looking into many aspects that need to be addressed for M2M in Release 12 and 13 of LTE, tackling issues such as M2M security and device enablement for Release 12.

One important study has focused on how best to support low-cost, low-power devices over a 4G LTE connection. User devices with LTE onboard have a maximum transmission power (TX power) of 23 DB, so the goal is to reduce that while also cutting the components costs for M2M devices.

The "Study on Provision of low-cost MTC UEs based on LTE" group proposes to drastically reduce the data rates offered over LTE to just over 100 Kbit/s for M2M devices that do not require a fast link, but which do need a longer battery life. The goal is to offer performance on a par with current GSM/GPRS M2M devices, which can then be supported on a network with a much longer lifespan than 2G networks. The stated aim was to find a way to support this work on the device-side, and have it be compatible with existing LTE basestations.

Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) and many other operators and vendors have been supporting the work. Here's a complete list from the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) :

  • Vodafone
  • Ericsson
  • IP Wireless Inc.
  • Huawei
  • Nokia [now Microsoft]
  • Nokia Networks [listed as Nokia Siemens Networks]
  • ST-Ericsson
  • Motorola Mobility
  • Mediatek
  • ZTE
  • Alcatel-Lucent
  • NEC
  • TeliaSonera
  • AT&T
  • Qualcomm
  • Samsung
  • eMobile
  • Intel Corporation
  • Telefónica
  • Sony Corporation
  • Sony Europe
  • CMCC
  • Renesas Mobile Europe Ltd
  • Orange

The study is listed as finished as of June 13.

A study in and of itself, however, doesn't mean that future LTE networks will play nice with IoT. A look at the Release 13 specification shows there's plenty more M2M work going on it that future specification.

For ongoing updates on IoT, visit Light Reading's dedicated M2M channel.

The LTE updates, meanwhile, take a long time to trickle down into production networks. For instance, many carriers are now rolling out some features that were laid out in the Release 10 specification, more commonly known as LTE-Advanced, which was completed in April 2011. (See Why You Should Care About LTE-Advanced (Eventually).)

Release 12 is expected to be baked in December 2014, and Release 13 should follow in March 2016.

Some chipmakers, such as Altair Semiconductor , meanwhile, are pushing out ahead of the specifications and standards with LTE silicon aimed at supporting a burgeoning M2M market as soon as possible. (See Does M2M Need LTE?)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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7/28/2014 | 2:19:55 PM
The rise of the machines
Check out some of the links in the story, there's a LOT of work going on with LTE and M2M.
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