This week, it's the Consumer Electronics Show at Las Vegas, Nevada, North America. It's when and where some carriers, device and component manufacturers decide to showcase their latest products, which are either about to be launched or are in the pipeline for the coming few months. Today's story concerns North American carrier, AT&T, which has announced it is to introduce a family of tiny LTE modem modules designed with the Internet of Things market, or IoT, in mind. However, AT&T's offerings include a variety of different technologies available, including onboard GPS location radios, voice-capable 3G radio, plus the 4G LTE networking.
There are a few reasons why the manufacturer of a connected device may wish to include a LTE-only modem module. Network performance one main reason, because LTE networking technology allows for a much faster data transfer rate compared with 3G technology. However, the raw transfer rate is only part of the performance advance. Another is that LTE networks traditionally offer lower latencies, in other words it takes the network less time to respond to a demand for networking. This can be important for certain types of device. However, besides higher performance networking technology, from a byte per byte transfer perspective, LTE modems are usually more efficiency than 3G HSPA technology. LTE modems are usually as efficient, if not more so, than 3G modems when idle but take effectively no time to work up to maximum transfer rates, whereas 3G technology requires a period of time before it is able to send or receive data at the maximum rate. For a device that may be expected to be used where it can obtain a respectable LTE signal and where it is required to transfer an amount of data on a regular basis, using LTE should extend battery life.
Chris Penrose, Senior Vice President of AT&T Mobility's "Internet of Things" unit, said this on the subject: "Businesses depend on IoT solutions for gathering real-time information on assets across the world. We're pleased to be able to facilitate the availability of cost-effective modules so our customers can deploy IoT solutions over the AT&T 4G LTE network. The new LTE modules help the battery life of IoT devices last longer so businesses can better serve their customers." AT&T's new LTE modules have been designed in conjunction with Wistron NeWeb Corporation and use an industry-standard surface mount technology as set down by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and designed to reduce the price and complexity of IoT devices, as manufacturers can easily exchange modules. Prices for the modules will start from as little as $14.99 each (plus taxes) although the units are not due to start shipping until the second quarter.