Tarun George: Unleashing the True Power of LTE Networks for Machines

With the growing requirements of low-latency, high-speed networks, the transition to 5G has become paramount, particularly for internet of things.

Tarun George: Unleashing the True Power of LTE Networks for Machines
The author of this Expert Opinion is Tarun George, co-founder of Cavli Wireless.

Although the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) Release 15 has officially commenced the distribution of the 5th Generation of Telecommunication (5G) networks, the adoption of legacy mobile technologies that long reigned in the market such as LTE (Long Term Revolution) is still continuing to gain momentum.

3GPP or the 3rd Generation Partnership Project is a combined project that caters to a huge range of telecommunication networks in the world. It aims at developing widely acceptable specifications for the third generation era of mobile communication systems that includes telecommunication technologies including radio access, core networks, and services.

The major focus for all 3GPP Releases is to make the system backward and forward compatible where possible, to ensure that the operation of the user equipment is uninterrupted. A good example of this principle was the priority placed on backward compatibility between LTE and LTE-Advanced so that an LTE-A terminal can work in an LTE cell and an LTE terminal works in the LTE-A cell.

Growing requirements for low-latency, high speed networks for machines

With the growing requirements of low-latency, high-speed networks and the ability to service more devices than ever before, the transition of 2G/3G/4G to 5G has become paramount. This is accelerated by the deployment of massive IoT, or internet of things.

The burgeoning number of connected devices led to the need for a dedicated low-power wide-area cellular IoT network. 3GPP responded to it with two technologies LTE-M (short for LTE for machines) and NB-IoT, which refers to narrowband IoT.

LTE-M has been made the de facto choice when crucial data has to be sent on a real-time basis with sufficient bandwidth and network speeds to address the needs of M2M communication. With the 3GPP Release 14, the speed of LTE-M has been upgraded by launching LTE-M2 which boasts 4Mbps speeds compared to 1Mbps from the previous generation which can be translated to use cases with higher bandwidth requirements and for devices in mobility & voice capabilities.

Ever since its release in 2010, several Mobile Network Operators (MNO) across the world have heavily invested in the LTE network rollouts, towards the transition from 2G/3G to 4G. Large-scale global deployment of LTE networks has contributed towards improved network coverage, easily available, and affordable high-speed devices.

Figure: LTE subscriptions forecast 2016-2020 (Image Source: GSA)

As reported by the GSA, the contribution of LTE to mobile subscribers has steadily climbed up the ladder over the years. The source reported that the end of 2016 witnessed a massive increase in the number of global LTE subscribers that reached up to 1.52 Bn. It has also forecasted that the number of 4G connections is expected to double by 2020 moving from 23% in 2016 to 45% in 2020. GSA predicts that the number of LTE subscribers would hit 3.8 Bn by the end of 2020.

LTE-M, the industry term for LTE MTC (LTE – Machine Type Communication), which refers explicitly to LTE-M1, is an abbreviation for Long Term Evolution (4G) category M1 or Long Term Evolution of Machines. The radio technology is a standards-based protocol that offers extended indoor and subterranean coverage and is apt for Low Power Wide Area IoT applications, supporting a battery life for smart devices longer than 10 years.

Applications and Use Cases of LTE-M

LTE-M supports several low-power IoT applications such as sensor monitoring, asset tracking, fleet tracking (Fleet Management Solutions), applications that real-time communication, industry 4.0 applications, etc. Use cases include Smart Utility Metering, Fleet Management Solutions, Patient monitoring systems, Asset management solutions, Preventive Maintenance, etc. A total of 32 countries around the world have LTE-M1 coverage through 45 Mobile Network Operators (MNO) as of April 2020.

Fleet Management Solution

Fleet Management Solutions enable SMBs & Enterprises to optimize schedules and routes for their logistics department – be it for vehicles that are traversing interstate or heavy engineering vehicles that move within predefined geo-fences. With LTE-M coverage, be able to remotely optimize vehicle routes, monitor driver behaviour, increase productivity, cost-efficiency, and obtain the efficiency of your fleets.

Smart Utility Metering

With the need for intelligent and sustainable environments, smart city projects are today gaining much traction. Energy distribution authorities can remotely monitor and control the distribution and consumption of resources at any given location with Smart Utility Metering solutions.

Predictive Maintenance

In environments like factories and industries, heavy machines and equipment would require a timely inspection to detect signs of wear or tear. IoT-enabled techniques are designed to help determine the condition of in-service equipment in order to estimate when maintenance should be performed. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is making this easier for the user by using Predictive Maintenance solutions to forecast and detect anomalies before fault incidents.


Micro-mobility services offer an eco-friendly, cost-effective answer to hectic traffic congestion. They bring together a diversity of stakeholders such as traffic authorities, product manufacturers, platform operators, and government agencies to make transportation safer, cleaner, efficient and reliable.
“IoT can finally achieve true mobility with LTE-M. Devices can move unrestricted over a wide range, opening up new application opportunities that would otherwise be impossible using 3G or 4G. LTE-M is the best low power solution for tracking applications, and Orange has been a pioneer in LTE-M across Europe along with the best reach through roaming coverage,” said John Mathew of Cavli.

The Decline of 2G: LTE-M is Here to Reign

Originally designed for voice calling in mobile communications and for applications requiring small amounts of data, 2G networks are popularly known for their reliability but sadly infamous for being among the slowest cellular connections in the market. This makes it difficult to achieve stable connectivity in hard-to-reach areas. With the bandwidth levels reaching their peak in the frequency range allocated for 2G, a new standard technology for its replacement is inevitable given the large adoption of smart connected devices/products in the years to come.

When compared to 2G, LTE-M networks offer a better solution in terms of remote coverage, data speeds, higher bandwidth & network capacity, longer battery life, and low device cost. While the transition remains challenging in several regions where IoT use cases such as Light Vehicle/Asset Tracking relies on 2G, it’s about time that regulators and IoT product makers alike need to realize why LTE-M is the future of connected things. In most cases, simply adding a new modem to the existing infrastructure could be an easy solution. Although an entire replacement of the outdated infrastructure could potentially increase device functionality.

Years of experience handling business operations and marketing equipped Tarun George with the prerequisites to lead as the Chief Operating Officer at Cavli Wireless, Inc. since 2017. Prior to Cavli, Tarun built a long and polished track in the ICT industry, covering the spectrum of operational, regulatory as well as the investment and Venture Capital perspectives. At Cavli, he provides a wide array of expertise for day-to-day operations and global strategy. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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