LTE Cat 1 vs. Cat M1: Differences, Advantages, & Drawbacks - SEEWORLD

LTE Cat 1 vs. Cat M1: Differences, Advantages, & Drawbacks

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What is LTE Cat M1? LTE Cat M1 is a low-power wide-area (LPWA) technology that uses cellular technologies to allow “Massive IoT,” or billions of IoT devices. Cat M1 is the most common Cat M nowadays since Cat M2 adoption will take a few more years.

Then how about the Cat M1 GPS tracker? Cat M1 GPS tracker refers to a group of tracking devices that operate on a narrow 1.4 MHz channel, with download peak rates of 1 Mbit/s and uplink speeds of 1 Mbps (3GPP release 13). 

What are the differences between Cat 1 and Cat M1? Which is better? What device is best for your company?

Before we get into the differences between LTE Cat 1 and LTE Cat M1, it’s important to understand what cellular IoT is and where it came from.

The rise of low-power, wide-area networks (LPWAN) choices like SigFox, LoRa, and Weightless has been fueled by the popularity and ubiquity of IoT devices such as IoT cellular routers and IoT cellular gateways.

Traditional cellular networks, such as 4G and LTE, utilize a lot of power and aren’t suitable for applications where just a little quantity of data is transferred occasionally (e.g. real-time positioning, gas consumption monitoring, or electricity use). The goal of cellular IoT is to meet the needs of low-power, long-range applications.

What Is CAT 1?

Cat 1 is an LTE connection protocol created specifically to support IoT applications. It reduces bandwidth and communication demand to save power and money for large-scale or long-range IoT systems.

Cat-1 is the only fully functional cellular IoT option, and it marks an early attempt to link IoT devices to current LTE networks. While it doesn’t have the same speed as 3G networks, Cat 1 GPS device is a great alternative for IoT applications.

The capabilities of each device that connects to an LTE network are differentiated using “categories” in LTE radio technology. Cat 1 devices, for example, may offer download rates of up to 10 Mbps, whereas Cat 4 devices can employ carrier aggregation and allow download speeds of up to 150 Mbps.

What Are the Differences Between LTE Cat 1 vs. Cat M1?

3GPP Release  Release 8  Release 13
Device Receive Bandwidth  1.4–20 MHz  1.4MHz
 Downlink Peak Rate  10 Mbit/s  1 Mbit/s
 Uplink Peak Rate  5 Mbit/s  1 Mbit/s
 Power Demand  Low  Very low
 Duplex mode  Full duplex  Full/Half duplex
 Device Transmit Power  23 dBm  20 / 23 dBm

What Are the Advantages of Cat M1 Device?

Cat M devices have significant advantages for mobile network operators (MNOs), IoT developers, and also customers.

The key advantage of Cat M devices for MNOs is that they operate on considerably lower frequency bands (1.4 MHz). This allows them to cram more gadgets into each cell site’s accessible spectrum. In comparison to active standard LTE devices, a typical LTE cell site can accommodate 10x the quantity of active Cat M devices.

Cat M modems require less power, allowing power-constrained devices can function for months or years on a tiny battery with sophisticated power-saving capabilities.

Cat M modems also start up faster from a cold start than Cat 1 modems, resulting in faster connection times.

Another significant benefit is that Cat M modems are typically less expensive than normal LTE modems, lowering hardware costs.

Cat M1 Networks’ Drawbacks

While Cat M1 offers considerable potential for power-constrained IoT devices, it also has several disadvantages.

  1. Cat M has limited bandwidth. Some testing reveals that normal upstream rates are approximately 300 Kbps, even though Cat M offers peak upstream speeds of around 1 Mbps.
  2. Cat M support is currently unavailable and is yet to be introduced in a large number of countries. However, Cat M coverage is a subset of conventional LTE coverage for the time being.
  3. In the event of network congestion, devices employing Cat M1 might be moved off the network. When a cell site becomes overcrowded, the network will require Cat M devices that have been connected for a long period to disengage and reconnect later.

Cat M1 Tracking Device Applications

Cat M is best suited for IoT devices that are power-constrained and exchange limited volumes of traffic with your application, as should have been clear by now. Here are a few examples of possible applications:

  • Asset management
  • Smart meters (temperature, air quality meter, etc.)
  • Smart irrigation
  • Vehicle/fleet tracking
  • Insurance company
  • Financial companies
  • Car rental
  • Car dealers
  • Car mortgage

In general, any device that relies on tiny batteries and is difficult to replace or recharge reaps major benefits from Cat M.

When LTE Cat 1 Device Outperforms Cat M1 GPS Tracker?

An LTE Cat 1 (or Cat 3/4) tracker is more suitable for you if your IoT use case requires an “always-on” connection between your devices and your application cloud.

You are not taking advantage of any of the power saving features provided by Cat M while in an “always-on” mode, which prevents your devices from ever sleeping, but you are also facing the constraints of being on a low bandwidth connection and being forced to disconnect when there is congestion at the local cell site to which you are connected.

Cat M coverage is substantially inferior to regular LTE service. Cat M is not accessible in all countries, and even when it is, not all mobile network operators in that nation support it. As a result, if you choose Cat M for your IoT devices, you’ll have fewer connection providers to choose from.

A normal LTE GPS tracker may be a better alternative than a Cat M tracker if your device regularly transfers significant volumes of data to and from the network. Because a Cat M connection provides limited bandwidth, the device must be online for extended periods to download large files.

Also, some of the Cat M lower power modes aren’t supported if you’re using PPP (point to point protocol).

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