Today we are announcing another major milestone in our network evolution as we enable support for Category 1 (Cat1) devices and build a new foundation for the Internet of Things (IoT).

To date when we have spoken of our LTE service on our mobile network we have compared it to a highway optimised for the fastest vehicles racing to get the highest amount of data delivered in the shortest possible time.

Just as the road network is designed to carry vehicles with many different loads, speeds, fuel requirements, and even off road adventure plans, so is the LTE service on our mobile network designed to efficiently carry the widely varying data demands of our customers. The standards (as shaped by the industry to ensure IoT evolves in the same direction) define some of these different performance standards as Categories or Cats (not because the internet plays lots of cat videos).

With the explosion in demand to connect all types of things to the internet in order to track, monitor and control our world from water meters to environmental sensors, there is a range of Categories designed to support different usage types.

The key things that these additional devices need to have, compared to those devices on today’s LTE service, include;

  • much lower cost for the LTE chip in order to lower the barrier for mass adoption (eg $5 or less)
  • much longer battery life so they can be set and left for typically over 10 years
  • much deeper coverage reach into buildings, so they work in more places

In the laws of physics you don’t get something for nothing, however a simple trade off like sending much less data, less often, can give us some breakthrough capabilities for a connected world.

Telstra is continuing to work with the industry to drive the scale and standardisation of these solutions and this year we will reach some significant milestones on early capabilities.

Starting now, Cat 1 heralds the next wave of IoT LTE devices that are lower cost and offer longer battery life but are still required to carry reasonable data rates. Cat 1 will be closely followed by the introduction of both Cat-M which will increase coverage and reduce device cost, and ultimately Narrow Band-IoT (NB-IoT) which is a major new breakthrough in IoT standards.

Cat-M will be a good fit for wearables and applications that need to send low to moderate amounts of data, say, more than a few hundred bytes.

NB-IoT will be the next big breakthrough in that it will also provide deeper coverage into buildings and extend existing remote and rural penetration beyond our current geographical coverage. NB-IoT has a lower data rate than Cat 1 and Cat M and will enable even lower cost devices. NB-IoT introduction will enable operators to support massive numbers of IoT devices on the network. The NB-IoT standard will enable the widespread adoption of the IoT throughout Australia, and across the globe.

We will be partnering with Ericsson and our device partners later this year to bring the NB-IoT and Cat-M technology to Australia for network trials and demonstrations to the industry. These NB-IoT trials will pave the way for the expected rapid growth in the machine to machine sector, leveraging our existing 4G service infrastructure forming part of our mobile network.

Combining these capabilities with our extensive LTE coverage, we will be able to provide customers with incredible coverage for IoT devices across our national mobile network.

In an Australian first, we have also recently partnered with LTE for IoT chipmaker, Sequans Communications, to test their Calliope Cat 1 chipset on our production network. We will also demonstrate these Cat 1 capabilities with Sequans in the first half of 2016.

As Ambroise Popper, VP and GM of Sequans’ M2M business unit said, as the world’s first provider of an LTE Cat 1 chipset for IoT, we’re excited to work with Telstra to validate that devices based on our Calliope LTE Cat 1 chipset platform perform well alongside traditional LTE devices on its mobile network.”

This type of collaboration will bring great opportunities to the industry globally.