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Friday, September 09, 2016

Sequans to deliver LTE IoT chip for roll outs

By Nick Flaherty

IoT chipmaker Sequans Communications is demonstrating its LTE-M and LTE-NB chips this week ready for roll out of systems later this year.

The Monarch chip is being shown linked to an LTE eNodeB base station emulator, the Amari OTS 100 from Amarisoft. This is an LTE Cat M1/NB1, LTE Release 13 design specifically for narrowband IoT applications, including sensors, wearables, and other low data, low power M2M and IoT devices. Monarch complies with the ultra-low-power and reduced complexity feature requirements of the 3GPP release 13 LTE Advanced Pro standard, defining narrowband, low data rate LTE technology for machine (M2M) communications.

The baseband, RF transceiver, power management, and RAM memory are integrated into a single 6.5 x 8.5 mm package (which is not necessarily a single chip), and also has programmable RF filtering for global band support. Sequans' proprietary dynamic power management technology will give it an operating life of over 10 years, says the company, overcoming one of the main objections in using LTE for IoT (the other being the operator costs)

Category M1, also known as LTE-M and Cat M, delivers about 1 Mbps maximum in a 1.4 MHz channel, and Category NB1, also known as narrowband IoT, or NB-IoT, delivers about 40 kbps in a 200 kHz channel.

“We are very proud to highlight the key capabilities of Monarch in this first-in-the-industry live demo of a Cat M1/NB1 chip,” said Georges Karam, CEO of Sequans. "In designing Monarch, we worked from day one to make sure it would be fully optimized in both cost and power consumption to fully unleash the LTE for IoT market potential. I am very excited to say that Monarch is operating as designed and we expect to have it ready for network deployments in Q4. Monarch is an entirely new, fully-optimized silicon design, and not an earlier generation chip modified with software to simulate Cat M1 and NB1 capabilities, as others appear to be doing.

He says the company is closely engaged with major operators, major eNodeB vendors, and key technology partners to fully address deployment plans for Cat M1 and NB1 networks, beginning first in the US (it has a deal with Verizon). Several OEMs and ODMs are developing modules and devices, with applications including health and fitness wearables, smart energy meters and asset trackers, industrial monitors and sensors, and Sequans has teamed up with Gemalto for the security and authentication element.

According to ABI Research, a leader in technology market intelligence, cumulative cellular M2M module shipments from 2016 through 2021 will reach 1.1 billion units; LTE modules will experience the highest growth, exceeding 50 percent of all cellular M2M shipments in 2021.

“With the recent ratification of the Cat M1 and Cat NB1 standards, it is pretty clear that LTE will rapidly replace 2G and 3G connections in the major M2M markets,” said Dan Shey, Managing Director and Vice President at ABI Research. “Sequans’ introduction of its Cat M1/NB1 chip, already working and being developed rapidly by Sequans in close collaboration with leading operators and OEMs, shows the strong momentum developing behind LTE Cat M1 and Cat NB1.”

“Narrowband LTE technology is of crucial importance to the M2M and IoT markets as many use cases will require nation-wide and carrier-grade connectivity. Our Monarch chip is an ideal solution to address this demand,” said Karam.

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