3GPP is a global consortium of telecommunications providers that has defined the LTE connectivity standard, as well as previous technologies like GPRS, EDGE, and others. But it can be tough to understand the differences between 3GPP telecommunications categories, especially when it comes to LTE.
Unlike previous technologies like 3G, LTE is an incredibly diverse standard, encompassing over a half-dozen released categories of technologies, defined by 3GPP “releases”.
A release is a specific stable research platform released by 3GPP. For example, LTE Release 8 defined LTE Cat 1 – a wireless communication standard that included a 10Mbps downlink rate, and a 5Mbps uplink peak rate.
Release 8 was the first release to truly define the LTE standard. Release 8 came about in 2008, and was defined to create the next generation of communications technology. LTE release 8 included:
LTE Cat 1 was also defined by this release, offering a lower power, lower bandwidth system that could be used for IoT technologies.
LTE Cat 1 caps out at 10Mbps downlink, unlike LTE Cat 4 which could peak at 150 Mbit/s. This allows for a less power hungry device, but still gives plenty of data throughput.
LTE Release 13 is the latest LTE release by 3GPP, and contains multiple specifications for new technologies to be used in wireless telecommunications. Among them is the LTE eMTC standard, also known as LTE Cat M1.
This standard can be thought of as a natural evolution of LTE Cat 1. It further streamlines the bandwidth of LTE Cat 1, and has a maximum throughput of 1Mbps.
This lower-power design allows LTE eMTC to be used in applications where power-hungry, less-advanced LTE Cat 1 technologies could not be used – remote sensors that need to rarely connect to networks, devices that must consume very small amounts of power, and so forth.
Together, Cat 1 and LTE eMTC specifications represent two important wireless standards to be used in the Internet of Things.
Cat 1 can be used in applications like security cameras, where low power is a bit less necessary, but high throughput is required, and LTE eMTC could be used for a device like a remote motion sensor – this device would require very little bandwidth, but would need a long-lasting battery or power source, making the low-bandwidth, power-sipping eMTC standard a perfect fit.
As LTE Cat 1 and LTE eMTC technologies are deployed worldwide, it will certainly be interesting to see how they change the way we communicate with each other, and with our high tech devices.