LTE-M and NB-IoT support


#1

This just over the transom today …

Lower cost modules, lower cost service plans, lower power operation.

What say Particle?


#2

I didn’t find any mention of the Module Cost.

But I did notice the $20,000 minimum per year, in the fine print…


#3

Hey folks!

We are excited about LTE (both M1 and NB1), and the cellular module we’ve chosen to support LTE is compatible with both! T-Mobile is the clear choice for NB1 support in the US, since Verizon and AT&T are leading with LTE M1. As always, the availability of pricing and marketing materials from carriers in the industry far outpaces actual availability (2nd half of 2018 is the loose guidance we’ve been provided), but we’re on top of it and will provide a path for NB1 development once the market materializes further.


#4

@will From your point of view what are the key benefits to this new LTE (both M1 and NB1) platform over the current GSM networks the Electron is using? Better cellular coverage? Lower Power Consumption?


#5

OK thanks. I’ll look for the Particle offering when available, I noted Hologram has already moved on LTE-Cat-M1, but apparently not yet for NB-IoT.


#6

The key benefits are basically three things:

  1. Long term support. 2G and 3G networks will likely be sunset in most countries that plan to support LTE M1 and NB1 by 2020 or so. LTE M1 and NB1 will be around for 10+ years, so as a product creator you can be sure that the supporting infrastructure for your product will not disappear.

  2. Cost. LTE M1 and NB1 modules are approximately the same as 2G modules, and are significantly cheaper than 3G and LTE CAT1/4/6 modules.

  3. Power consumption. LTE M1 consumes less power than previous cellular technologies (125mA max power) vs. 3G (700mA) and 2G (2A bursts), which allows you to have products that can last much longer on batteries or for mobile applications.

  4. RF Penetration. Software support for this feature is not going to be generally available in the early years of LTE M1, but there is support in the spec for improved RF penetration over existing LTE for applications in places like basements and parking garages where cellular signal is typically poor.

Hope that helps to answer some of the value props of LTE M1!


#7

That’s a great breakdown with a lot of info that is new to me!

The future looks exciting for Particle and IoT!


#8

For those interested, there is a deck that I put together about LTE M1 and NB1 on Slideshare that may be helpful in learning more about those technologies.

Note that the information is now about ~6 months old (which is a good amount of time in the world of new technologies) but still directionally and conceptually correct.


#9

Question Will. For which tech are the estimates on Slide 34? M1 or NB1?


#10

That was an illustrative example based on the estimate in the Sequans announcement on the previous slide, which was about LTE M1.

My point in that slide was to illustrate that marketing speak is highly optimistic to the point of unrealistic, and that an advertised 10-15 year battery life may be far from possible given the realities of most mobile products in the field.


#11

Agreed and understood. My company is deep into an eval of all the LPWAN techs. We have a pretty good fix on LoRaWAN, still working the licensed options. Cheers


#12

Will Particle’s LTE development board be pin-for-pin compatible with the Electron? In other words, will upgrading from 3G to LTE be as simple as swapping boards?


#13

Is the E Series available for order on the NB netwoprk? Is LTE-M/NB enabled module the same board, and if so, can the NB network be forced/toggled on? (My intent is to access a NB network for the lower power consumption and greater coverage in fringe areas.) Will there be an option to choose cell operator of the network at time of order? - I only ask because I am aware T-Mobile was the first US carrier to offer the NB network in 2018, but Verizon and ATT are now live (June 2019) and Verizon offers the most blanketed (least holes) coverage not only for the US, but for my specific area (southwest US) whereas T-Mobile has - compared to Verizon - has the most gaps in their NB network coverage of the 3 operators. *Thanks for indulging me all the questions - I know the LTE and NB networks are new for everyone - just wanting to get some direction from the Particle crew as we are very pleased with and hope to use the E Series platform.


#14

The E Series LTE cellular modem (u-blox SARA-R410M-02-B) theoretically supports NB IoT but is disabled. Some features, like OTA code updates may not work over NB, and it’s not a supported configuration but may work in a limited fashion.

However that’s not the real problem. The E Series has a MFF2 SMD SIM soldered on the board at the factory. It’s only programmed for the Particle MVNO, which uses AT&T for LTE Cat M1 in the United States. It’s not possible to order it with a different MFF2 SIM or reprogram it to use a different carrier.


#15

Thank you for the response Rick.
Since E Series are specified as LTE/NB, can NB be enabled at some point in the future - albeit with AT&T?
Do I need to specify LTE sim when ordering further E Series boards?
Thanks for all the info - again which I know LTE/NB is new for all of us.


#16

On the u-blox SARA-R410M-02-B, used on all of the LTE devices (E Series LTE, Boron LTE, and Electron LTE), NB IoT is a software feature. It’s currently turned off, but can be turned on. This makes the most sense for the Boron LTE, which has an external SIM card slot and can be used with a 3rd-party SIM card on other networks. That’s how we know NB works, though it’s officially unsupported at this time.

As long as you order the E Series LTE (E402), it comes with LTE Cat M1 enabled by default and includes the MFF2 SMD SIM soldered on the board with the Particle MVNO, which uses AT&T LTE Cat M1 in the United States.

Right now the E402 is supported in the United States, with Canada and Mexico in beta test. It’s all the same hardware and we were able to enable Canada and Mexico using the existing hardware that previously only supported the US.


#17

Understood. Thank you.
So if I chose to toggle on NB access through software, just verifying that I would be on AT&Ts NB network (for the E Series LTE fixed SIM) - correct?


#18

AT&T’s LTE Cat NB1 (NB IoT) network is a small subset of their LTE Cat M1 network coverage, and has lower data rates, and is officially unsupported on Particle devices, so I wouldn’t recommend turning it on. But yes, in theory, you could turn it on.


#19

Got it. Thanks.
Last question on that subject: since E Series is specified as LTE and NB - do you expect Particle to support NB soon? You mentioned it is not recommended to turn NB on, and in theory it would work, but hate to have any gear out in remote areas - where NB is best used - that could work in theory?
I may be missing something here- thanks for the patience.


#20

AT&T has deployed LTE Cat M1 on bands 2, 4, and 12, 1900MHz, 1700MHz and 700MHz. The 700 MHz band is commonly deployed in rural areas and works quite well. I would not expect a significant advantage of using LTE Cat NB1 over LTE Cat M1 at 700 MHz.