Telstra has turned on support for the low-speed category one LTE standard on its 4G network, to be used for communications between 'internet of things' (IoT) connected devices.
In a blog post last week, Telstra's group managing director of networks, Mike Wright, said the telco will partner with its main vendor Ericsson and device makers to trial Cat-1 LTE.
The LTE standard offers 10Mbps downlink, and 5Mbps uplink, with fewer signal modulation features and carrier aggregation compared to Cat 4 4G, which provides theoretical speeds of 150/50 Mbps, but which requires more expensive and power hungry chip sets.
Even slower and lower-power LTE standards - like Cat 0 (1Mbps downlink), which is specified in the 3GPP Release 12 standards document finalised in March last year, and Cat M (375Kbps speed, 1.4 MHz bandwidth) and narrow band LTE-M (150Kbps, 200kHz bandwith), to be included in the unfinished 3GPP Release 13 - are also on the horizon for Telstra.
The IoT LTE standards aim to provide a longer reach, of more than 15 kilometres using 700 to 900MHz spectrum. Wright said that Cat-M will "be a good fit for wearables and applications that need to send low to moderate amounts of data, say more than a few hundred bytes".
Telstra said NB LTE-M which is also called NB-IoT will be the next big breakthrough, delivering deeper coverage into buildings, and remote and rural penetration beyond the telco's existing geographical range, while heralding very low cost devices.
The advantages for telcos in adapting LTE 4G for IoT applications is that existing 2G and 3G networks used for machine-to-machine (M2M) communications can be wound down, reducing complexity and cost for operators while providing a greater range of features and easier management.
Spectrum used by existing 2G and 3G networks can also be repurposed for LTE, but the older cellular devices would have to be replaced by new 4G modems.
Telstra and chipset vendors such as a Sequans believe LTE Cat-M devices can be made as cheaply as 2G modules, getting down to $5, and could boast a battery life of over ten years, further enhancing the new technology.
Sequans will be testing its Calliope Cat 1 chipset on Telstra's network in the coming months, the telco said.