Before we talk about the difference between LTE CAT 1 and LTE CAT M1, let’s explain the what is cellular IoT and where did it come from.

Popularity and ubiquity of IoT devices such as IoT cellular router or IoT cellular gateway has led to the increase of low-power, wide-area network (LPWAN) options like SigFox, LoRa, and Weightless (here’s why LPWAN is vital in IoT and a breakdown of the various options).

Traditional cellular options like 4G and LTE networks consume an excessive amount of power and don’t fit well with applications where only a little amount of knowledge is transmitted infrequently (e.g. meters for reading water levels, gas consumption, or electricity use).

Cellular IoT is supposed to satisfy the wants of low-power, long-range applications. 

What is CAT 1 

Cat 1 is an LTE communication standard designed for the express aim of servicing IoT applications. It scales down bandwidth and communication demand to save power and cost for large-scale or long-range IoT systems.

Cat-1 is the only fully-available cellular IoT option at the moment and represents an early push towards connecting IoT devices using existing LTE networks. While the performance is inferior to 3G networks, it’s an excellent option for IoT applications that require a browser interface or voice. The major attraction is that it’s already standardized, and more importantly, it’s simple to transition into the Cat-1 network. Experts predict that as 3G technology sunsets, Cat-1 networks will take its place.

What is CAT M

Cat-M1, also known as LTE Cat-M, is a low-cost LPWAN technology developed by 3GPP as part of the 13th edition of LTE standard. It's a complementary technology to NB IOT, with faster upload and download speeds of 1Mbps and lower latency of 10 to 15ms.

But truth advantage of Cat-M1 over other options out there, is that Cat-M is compatible with the prevailing LTE network. For carriers like Verizon and AT&T, this is often great news as they don’t need to spend money to create new antennas. They simply got to upload new software as long because the devices operate within its LTE network. the prevailing customer bases of those two companies will presumably hear that Cat-M is far and away the superior option.

What’s the difference between CAT 1 and CAT M1

They are mainly different in three aspects:bandwidth, power requirements and complexity.Once you define your needs it should be relatively easy to select the right one for any IoT-based application.

Specifications

CAT 1

CAT M1

Total bandwidth required

20MHz

1.4MHz

Download peak rate

10Mbps

1Mbps or 375kbps

Upload peak rate

5Mbps

1Mbps or 375kbps

Power demand

Low

Very low

Duplex mode

Full duplex

Full duplex or half duplex

Complexity

Moderate(simpler than Cat 3 or Cat 4)

Much lower than Cat 1


Applications for CAT 1 and CAT M1

Cat 1 Applications

  • Digital Signage
  • ATMs
  • Kiosks
  • Video Surveillance
  • Vehicle Telematics
  • Cellular Gateways
  • Point-of-sale terminals
  • Connected healthcare
  • Consumer electronic devices

Cat M1 (LTE-M) Applications

  • Personal/Asset Trackers
  • ATMs
  • Sensor Nodes
  • Utility Meters
  • Monitoring Systems
Science article

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