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KT and Nokia announce first LTE Cat-M field trial

Korea Telecom (KT) and Nokia have announced what they claim is the industry’s first field trial of enhanced Machine Type Communications (eMTC), another name for LTE-M – the LTE spec designed to cater for low-power IoT devices that require very low data rates but very long battery lives that is also sometimes referred to as LTE Cat-M.

The pair say that the trial used 1.4 MHz of a 20 MHz LTE allocation, and was powered by Nokia’ Flexi Multiradio 10 base station. Thanks to using only a small slice of the available spectrum, regular LTE traffic was still able to use the remainder of the band normally – meaning that the high bandwidth communications of smartphones and connected cars could coexist with the low-power LTE-M transmissions.

This would allow MNOs to run IoT communications within their existing licensed spectrum bands without purchasing additional airwaves or trusting to licence-exempt bands.

“This trial, a world-first, offers a solid platform to promote the widespread application of services powered by IoT technology by addressing limitations that are hampering its spread and reach,” said Chang Seok Seo, head of KT’s network strategy unit.

Nokia South Korea’s head, Andrew Cope, added: “With this trial, we have successfully demonstrated the capabilities of LTE as a veritable backbone for a growing range of IoT use cases.”

The Cat-M standard is expected to be included in the upcoming 3GPP Release 13, which is due in March. Its main features are a 1Mbps uplink and downlink, in a single antenna design that can allow developers to make much more affordable LTE devices. Cat-M is not to be confused with the NB-IoT standard that is also under development in the 3GPP. NB-IoT will be the result of cooperation between the Huawei-backed Cellular IoT (CIoT) standard and the newcomer NB-LTE, which was unveiled a few months ago by Nokia, Ericsson, and Intel.

Elsewhere in the Korean market, SK Telecom has signed a memorandum of understanding with Cisco to develop new IoT solutions, according to The Korea Herald. The agreement will see SK Telecom’s ThingPlug application platform paired with Cisco’s Fog Computing portfolio. The pair reportedly hope to develop mobile apps and sensors that will provide real-time data and analytics in the Korean market.

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