Jun 18, 2018

Q&A with Mehul Udani on Murata, Altair, LTE IoT Chipsets, and Cellular IoT

In February, Murata Electronics, a global leader in enabling embedded modules, announced it was teaming with Altair to develop its first cellular IoT solutions. Three months on, we caught up with Mehul Udani, Murata’s Director of Connectivity Solutions, to get his take on what this collaboration means for Murata, LTE IoT Chipsets, and the industry.

What encouraged Murata to pursue a cellular IoT solution?

Murata already has an extensive portfolio based on a variety of technologies, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and proprietary LPWANs.  However, we soon realized that cellular IoT – targeted for a broad range of applications – is a key technology and essential to serving current and future market needs. A key motive came from surveying our customer base and operators we partner with. The general consensus was a desire for Murata to help expedite the entire IoT market by doing the same for cellular IoT as we have done for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This encouraged us to team with companies that had an expertise in cellular IoT and a solution that will enable the market needs for the next five-to-ten years.

Why did you choose Altair?

Murata was looking to work with a company that has a long-term view on the product line and a solid background in cellular connectivity. Additionally, we needed a solution which combined the key aspects of extremely low power consumption with a high level of integration, including features integral to many IoT applications, such as security and GPS capabilities. Altair’s ALT1250 chipset met all these criteria.

Size was also a key consideration in selecting Altair. Our expertise in product miniaturization, combined with the small form factor of Altair’s chipset, has enabled us to produce one of the world’s smallest modules that will support both LTE-M and NB-IoT. This will prove essential to customers looking to enable cellular IoT connectivity for applications including wearables, trackers and medical devices.

How has teaming with Altair impacted Murata?

Closely working with Altair significantly enhances our products and technologies. Many of our customers will eventually use multiple connectivity options. This will include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which are particularly good for short-range connectivity. However, once a device is out of range, it will need to switch to a wide area network, such as cellular. Thus, this relationship will complement our current customer offerings.

Additionally, the dual-mode capabilities of Altair’s chipset add a unique value proposition to our product in that equipment manufacturers can use our module and sell the same product as both an LTE-M and NB-IoT enabled device. By supporting both features, our customers have tremendous flexibility to create a global offering on one product SKU.

Since the announcement in February, we have been sampling our products to strategic customers and generating considerable interest, particularly in the wearable device market. We are now focusing on perfecting and completing our solution for carrier approval, with the aim to release it to the market later this year.

What are your expectations for the IoT market?

In terms of new opportunities, we expect the market to grow around 30% year-over-year. There is a tremendous appetite for adding connectivity in products – for both existing products that are already in use but need to be connected to add new features or services, as well as the new class of emerging products which are serving new roles in our lives.

Of course, this will entail certain challenges, particularly in terms of implementation and how quickly our customers can bring products to market. While the IoT market in general is growing very quickly, manufacturers are often not ramping out products fast enough. There is still a great need for good out-of-the-box solutions. For Murata, this means creating as a high a level of integration as possible into our solutions to enable our customers focus on enabling cellular IoT features to go to mass production much sooner.

There is an incredible demand for low-powered products with high levels of integration – in particular, for a complete out-of-the-box experience with cellular operator approval. With Altair, we are working towards achieving this objective.