Apr 08, 2018

Industry Experts Answer Your Questions About LPWA Solutions

This week, Altair is pleased to share a guest blog post by Gus Vos, Chief Engineer, Technology Standards for Sierra Wireless.

Our recent webinar, Designing Low-Power Applications for LTE-M and NB-IoT LPWA Networks, sparked a flood of follow up questions about LPWA solutions. We will address them in a second live webinar on April 26. In the meantime, I decided to write this post to answer a few questions ahead of the webinar to help clear up any confusion around LPWA and 5G, some key features of LTE-M and NB-IoT and low-power modes. If you are ready to start developing your LPWA solutions, you may also want to check out this recently published blog: LTE-M and NB-IoT: What to Know Before You Start Development. 

What will be required to upgrade deployed NB-IOT and LTE-M low power solutions to 5G?

It is expected that both NB-IoT and LTE-M deployments will be able to seamlessly transition from existing 4G to 5G LTE networks with a simple over-the-air firmware (which both technologies support). It should be noted that NB-IoT and LTE-M release 15 is in fact 5G and will be the only LPWA 5G solution specified. As with any release, performance improvements are made, so we can expect release 15 will bring improvements to the 4Cs – cost (devices and services costs), current (battery life), coverage (reach) and capacity (network). You can refer to a previous blog I wrote on The Four C’s of IoT to learn more.

Many M2M and IoT applications rely on both SMS and internet protocols (TCP/IP) to communicate, do both NB-IoT or LTE-M networks support these features?

Yes, both NB-IoT and LTE-M support SMS and TCP/IP communication. Being a 3GPP standard technology gives both NB-IoT and LTE-M a lot of the features inherent to cellular technologies today including software updates and secure encryption. And with LTE-M, you also get roaming/mobility and real-time communication support for your IoT applications. It’s important to note that not all proprietary LPWA technologies such as LoRA, Sigfox, or Ingenu support TCP/IP communication, software updates, mobility, etc. For more on the differences between technologies like LoRA and LTE-M or NB-IoT, refer to a previous blog I wrote on Standard vs Proprietary Technologies.

Will eDRX and PSM ever get added to LTE Cat-1 and up devices?

EDRX and PSM were defined by 3GPP as category agnostic features, however they aren’t widely used today in high throughput LTE networks. Some advanced network operators already support PSM and EDRX modes in their Cat-1 networks while others may benefit from this feature after upgrade to a new software release that also supports Cat-M1/NB1. However, on the device side, the modem or module would also need to implement these features. It’s certainly something to keep an eye out for in the future.

Can GNSS work while the modem is in PSM or eDRX mode?

It’s a great question and will rely on the module implementation if GNSS has been integrated inside the modem or if you decide to use a discreet GNSS receiver in your design. With a discreet GNSS implementation, the modem’s power modes will not affect GNSS connectivity. But for modules with integrated GNSS, it will depend on the implementation. Some allow GNSS connectivity in any power mode and others only allow GNSS in PSM or eDRX mode.

This post also appears on the Sierra Wireless IoT Blog.

Please note that the LPWA Expert Panel Webinar on April 26 is a joint webinar with Sierra Wireless and Altair. Altair’s Director of Product Management, Dima Feldman, will be part of the expert panel – please register here!