With the continued rollout of new LTE-M and NB-IoT networks, increasingly more vertical industries are recognizing and adopting cellular IoT as the most viable solution for IoT connectivity. This is especially true for the aftermarket telematics industry – including fleet management, cold chain logistics and “Buy Here Pay Here” companies.
The market has shown great interest in LTE Cat-M1 as the ideal, and perhaps only long-term solution. This has resulted in significant activity over the last ten months, with several major telematics companies switching to Cat-M1. And with good reason:
- Vehicle telematics is an established market – companies already have products in the field, most of which support 2G and 3G. For these players, Cat-M1 is a blessing, providing the opportunity to cut costs, reduce size and lower data plans for their next-generation products. Therefore, the switch to Cat-M1 entails upgrading products that are already cellularly connected with a smaller, more power-efficient and cost-effective option.
- For telematics, there is no alternative to cellular – WiFi and Bluetooth lack the range and coverage, while non-cellular LPWAN technologies – such as LoRa and Sigfox – are generally not viable because of the need to create and manage proprietary networks. That’s why switching to Cat-M1 is vital for any telematics company’s growth. Other markets, such as wearables, smart home devices and even smart metering are newer, and some will take time to recognize the benefits of LTE.
- Coverage is essential – with the legacy 2G and 3G networks being retired, new 3G-based designs are already no longer being accepted. Therefore, any new product must be 4G (LTE)-based, and LTE-M is the logical choice for providing significantly improved coverage relative to existing networks.
- Cost will always be a key differentiator – Cat-M1 provides a cheaper solution to connect vehicles to a network and extract data. LTE is significantly cheaper than 3G and, taking into account data plans, will result in retail prices of between $40 and $60 per-device, which will often be subsidized by insurance companies.
Only cellular IoT can cater for the demands of the telematics industry and, if companies are to remain competitive, they need to start making the switch now. However, gaining the full benefits of an LTE solution will require highly integrated dual-mode chipsets, with embedded GNSS location capabilities, MCU subsystems, and dedicated security architecture.