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LTE-M – the true enabler of the Internet of Things

Paul O’Sullivan, Director of Wholesale & Commercial at O2

Last month, I wrote about three things that I believe every business should be doing now to make the most of the Internet of Things (IoT).

I began by focusing on connectivity, and outlined some of the key challenges that 5G-enabled IoT deployments face – including the ability to support high device density, and the low power consumption required to enable devices to operate for long periods without needing to be charged.

Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWA or LPWAN) address many of these challenges, which is why I am proud that O2 is the first UK operator to be rolling out an LTE-M (Long Term Evolution, category M1) network.


What is LTE-M?

LTE-M is a new radio technology that will enable millions of IoT devices to connect and transfer small amounts of data between them. Think of it as an upgrade to LTE (long term evolution/4G) networks. Because LTE-M allows long-range communications at a low bit rate among connected things, it is ideal for IoT devices with asset tracking sensors, like shopping trolleys, fire alarms and shipping containers.



What are the benefits of LTE-M?

In a nutshell, LTE-M draws less power and provides wider coverage than traditional cellular networks:

  • Wider coverage – LTE-M can operate in really challenging locations, like under manhole covers, within underground pipes or in car parks, basements or remote areas. Unlike other IoT radio technologies, it can also work for both static and mobile use cases.
  • Lower costs – The LTE-M modules in IoT devices are cost effective to produce, and are inexpensive to buy. They cost less to scale up too. The longer battery life means no electrical cabling is needed. And maintenance costs are lower because fewer site visits are required.
  • Enhanced security – The LTE-M network is secure and reliable. It uses O2’s fully-licensed spectrum with carrier grade security and every other privacy feature that you would expect of an LTE network, like support for encryption, entity authentication, data integrity and international mobile equipment identity.
  • Future proof – LTE-M is neither vendor nor operator dependent – It’s supported by multiple service providers, as well as device and chipset manufacturers across the globe.


7 Use cases

The use cases for LTE-M are far reaching, and touch most industries.
Here are just 7 examples:

  1. In Utilities, sensors that monitor infrastructure to improve industry efficiencies, like gas and water meters (including smart meter tracking and pipeline monitoring), or micro generation (monitoring the status of wind, solar or thermal generation equipment with sensors).
  2. In Logistics, for mobile asset tracking, allowing IoT devices to run without mains power, or regular recharging. For example, tracking the location and status of industrial assets, such as materials, vehicles or containers.
  3. In Industry / Manufacturing, where using IoT devices can improve the safety and efficiency of industrial production, like industrial tank process/safety (monitoring petrochemical and waste storage, hazardous fluid tanks, or high RF interference environments).
  4. In Smart Cities, for parking sensors, waste management and smart lighting.
  5. In Agriculture, for livestock tracking and monitoring (including fish, cattle and wild animals), and condition monitoring (stationary tests of soil, temperature and weather).
  6. In Medicine and Care, for assisted living / remote clinical monitoring (temperature sensors or alert buttons).
  7. In Smart Buildings, which rely on a network of connected devices, like smoke detectors, alarm systems and home automation.



We are already working on trials to bring new LTE-M applications to market via the new network, including projects relating to smart cities, retail and healthcare. You can find out more about them, and about how LTE-M applications might benefit your organisation, in our new whitepaper that we have published.


We want to hear from you

Choosing the right connectivity for your own IoT deployment is crucial, and O2 is here to help. If you’d like to find out more about partnering with O2, or to see how we can help you trial or develop LTE-M applications, call us on 0800 955 5590 or Get in Touch.


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