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Sep 13, 2017 11:00:00 AM

Locating LTE-M1 Devices

Posted by Dave McHoul

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This blog is part three of a six part series dedicated to locating Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) IoT devices. Previous posts discussed locating Ingenu and LoRa IoT devices. This post looks at the practical challenges associated with locating devices that communicate via the LTE-M1 LPWAN protocol.  

In the Internet of Things, millions of connected "things" record and communicate important data via the internet to central platforms or other “things”. With predictions of more than 20 billion connected devices by 2020 (Gartner), scale and cost are very important. LPWAN addresses these challenges by providing efficient, long range communications capabilities which enable devices to transmit small amounts of data (per device) at a lower cost.

Accurately and efficiently locating mobile "things" is a key data element in an integrated IoT strategy. With its power, bandwidth and cost constraints, LPWAN presents unique location challenges.

LTE-M1 Defined

Long Term Evolution (LTE) is the current generation (currently 4G) of technology for wireless voice and data service. LTE-M1, also known as LTE Cat M1 is a new device category within the LTE standard to support low-power IoT devices.

LTE-M1’s advantages include wireless carrier support, availability (particularly in the U.S. where the two largest U.S. carriers, AT&T and Verizon, have already rolled LTE-M1 nationwide), high data rates, use of licensed spectrum and ability to roam. 

Locating LTE-M1 Devices

Because it rides on the existing cellular network infrastructure, LTE-M1 devices have a built-in location method in Cell ID (called E-CGI in LTE). This capability is cost and battery effective, but is usually only as accurate as the cell site’s footprint, which can be up to a few kilometers. Observed Time Difference of Arrival (OTDOA) location is also supported, but requires an upgraded chipset. Satellite-based location methods will also work nicely with LTE-M1 for use cases that are not particularly battery-sensitive and do not need to work indoors. Wi-Fi also serves as a viable alternative for LTE-M1 and has cost and coverage advantages versus satellite methods.

For a complete analysis of LPWAN IoT location, download our eBook: