FROM THE BLOG

The Joke Is Over. We Can Stop Pretending LTE-M is a LPWAN

I saw this announcement and while I generally like and own multiple Samsung products, I felt the need to post something to commemorate the end of the LTE hype cycle for the mobile IoT. As in, nothing belies the hype of LTE-M as a low power WAN technology than seven day battery life on a mobile tracker.

This mobile tracker is seemingly designed to resemble a popular Bluetooth tracker and sports a LTE-M radio and GPS receiver. But as mentioned hereand here, a leopard can’t change its spots:

And that footnote “4” says:

So, a maximum of seven days of battery life for an LTE-M tracker under laboratory (i.e. ideal) conditions. So the smart money is on 2–3 days, or maybe one. It’s worth noting here that this announcement comes just weeks after Samsung announced an NB-IoT tracker also with just seven days of battery life.

And just to show that the lessons of GPRS are utterly unlearned, there’s this additional act of LPWAN/IoT history defiance:

Nonetheless, the myth of LTE-M as offering “extended battery life” and “lower cost” solution continues to be peddled on the same page:

If you are building LPWAN products with batteries that won’t last a year or more, based on analogs like Bluetooth Low Energy, sub-1GHz active RFID, or even fixed LoRa endpoints, maybe its time to stop calling your products “low power.” Your products might be easy to install for the average consumer, but recharging batteries every few days is right up there with taking out the trash and cleaning up after the dog. You would have thought cellular carriers had already learned the lesson about battery life — as well as the appetite for $5/month subscriptions— years ago with their legendary experiences with GPRS. So here we are in 2019 and cellular IoT seems to be running in place on these key attributes.

There is a home for LTE-M in mains-powered IoT solutions or where a huge (e.g. car) battery is available, but for mobile IoT use cases, it’s little more than a conversation starter for carrier sales teams selling other services. And following on a similar report from the same company using NB-IoT for asset tracking, an analyst could easily conclude LTE overall is unlikely to play any meaningful role in battery powered IoT deployments apart from a small niche that doesn’t mind recharging the device every 2–3 days and likes taking out the trash.

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