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Jan 10, 2016

Altair’s Cat-1 LTE Chips to Enable New Use Cases

By Diana Goovaerts

LAS VEGAS – A new Cat-1 LTE chip from Israeli start-up Altair Semiconductor will help open doors to new Internet of Things (IoT) use cases, the company’s co-founder Eran Eshed told Wireless Week in a Thursday interview at CES 2016.

Eshed said the chip is the first in a new product line that will evolve into next generation standards.

“So far IoT has really been M2M, and it’s largely been addressed with 2G technologies,” Eshed said. “Those networks are going to be shut down, they’re sunsetting as we speak. The natural replacement for 2G is LTE. Category 1 in general is the only real alternative to 2G.”

Eshed said the chips will mainly be used for smart meters for utilities, telematics for vehicle tracking and fleet management and security use cases, such as in alarm systems.

Unlike other chips that are used as Cat-1, Altair’s new chip has been developed and optimized specifically as a Cat-1 chip, giving it the long range and low power features necessary to stay competitive in today’s market.

Interestingly, Eshed said the range and lifespan of these new chips will help enable new use cases as well, including pet trackers, kid trackers and utility meters.

“There’s a clear need for connecting millions or billions or more of end devices with nodes with low cost, long range wireless technologies,” Eshed said. “Power consumption is something that can really enable use cases that previously were not possible. So for example (with) smart meters, electricity meters are always connected to power but gas meters and water meters are not. Sensors that you deploy and are battery operated and have to operate for 5, 10 years have to have a completely different life span.”

“All these things cellular has not been an option so far, and hence connectivity has always just been local, you know, Bluetooth,” he continued. “We’re talking about untethering these things and making them independent. And that is a completely new market that could be enabled and that’s pretty exciting.”

According to Eshed, the new Cat-1 LTE chips are completely coexistent with cellular traffic on today’s networks and are supported by all four top U.S. carriers.

Within the past several months, Altair’s new chipset has been endorsed by Verizon, selected by AT&T and Ericsson for a demonstration of the power-saving benefits of cellular-based IoT applications and was also chosen by Korea Telecom for demos for smart metering, GPS tracking and Power Save mode uses.

Eshed said the chipset’s price will be another point of disruption, bringing the traditional $20-30 range for LTE chips down to $10-15.

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