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Internet of things can’t be built on LTE

4G is ill-equipped to make the emerging sector a success.

By Amy-Jo Crowley

Expensive, energy inefficient and poor penetration will stop 4G cellular technologies such as LTE playing a major role in the Internet of Things (IoT).

This could see mobile network operators such as Vodafone and Huawei struggle to play a role in the IoT market

That is according to Ben Peters, head of products at Cambridge based networking start-up Neul, who claims devices connected across GPRS and LTE networks have no future in machine to machine (M2M) communications.

"They [LTE 4G networks] were really built for voice or broadband and with recharging phones in mind, which doesn’t really fit for the IoT because a lot of these sensors that need to be connected need to last for years from a battery," he told CBR.

"A lot of these IoT applications are super low cost and if you can’t meet a sub $5 price of a modem it’s just not worth putting the connectivity in there.

Nuel released its ‘Weightless’ communication standard called NeulNet earlier this year, which relies on "white space" frequencies – the unused portions of TV broadcast spectrum.

Jim Tully, VP distinguished analyst for IoT at Gartner, said: "If you were using GPRS or cellular generally, you need a lot of power and a big battery to send a big signal that can penetrate through all of those walls."

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"Because the lower frequency of this technology is inherently better at penetrating all of those walls and this weightless protocol, it means you only need a very small battery because it’s already able to penetrate the building. And that battery will last a long time."

Tully highlighted Zigbee, an established membership alliance which promotes low-powered networking standards and specifications as the potential industry standard.

"Usually things become multiple standards after a period of time and then eventually one of them wins. Whichever one ultimately wins the others die off," he said.

"It’s a question of offering it and trying to get as much market penetration as quickly as possible because you get this snowball effect. If people can see it being successful in one area, others are going to use it," he said.

Vodafone, which runs its Paknet M2M network in the UK believes that even while GPRS is more popular for now the LTE M2M market will explode though it has acknowledged that LTE still presents many data handling and low frequency challenges.



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