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LTE-M updates: Sequans, Qualcomm, Altair

With both AT&T and Verizon Wireless expected to roll out LTE-M internet of things networks in the U.S. this year, makers of low-power connectivity chipsets are busy forging partnerships and launching trials.

Sequans Communications and STMicroelectronics announced the most recent partnership. The companies said they plan to integrate STMicroelectronics’ hardware and software platforms with Sequans’ LTE Category M1 chipset platform in a design kit for IoT connectivity. LTE Category M1, also called Cat M or LTE-M, calls for low power and transmission rates, which is designed to reduce the cost of connectivity.

The companies said their IoT design kit will simplify device design and speed time to market for makers of wearables, connected health care devices, smart city and smart home devices, asset trackers, connected agriculture solutions and industrial IoT devices.

Calling the Sequans chipset “the industry’s most optimized LTE-M solution for IoT connectivity,” STMicroelectronics said the partnership will enable a “turnkey design kit” for developers of connected devices.

Verizon Wireless announced its certification of Sequans’ LTE Category M1 chipset early this year. At the same time, the carrier said it had certified Encore Networks’ LTE Cat-M1 router, NimbeLink’s Skywire Cat-M1 embedded modem and Link Labs’ LTE-M1 sensor suite. All three use the Sequans chipset for connectivity.

The news follows January’s announcement from Qualcomm that Quectel and Telit will launch modules that integrate Qualcomm’s Category M1 chipset. Qualcomm said the modules will be compatible with Verizon’s ThingSpace IoT platform, which has been pre-integrated and tested on the Qualcomm platform.

“Together with Qualcomm Technologies, Telit and Quectel, we’re offering a simple, seamless way to create edge access by incorporating LTE connectivity into these new applications.” said Mark Bartolomeo, VP of connected solutions at Verizon. “Paired with our roll out of the LTE Cat-M1 network, which will reach nationwide coverage by the end of [first quarter] 2017, the launch of a pre-integrated ThingSpace platform means developers can bring IoT products to market quicker and easier.”

While Verizon has said its LTE-M network will reach nationwide coverage by the end of the first quarter, the carrier has not said whether that network will go live all at once or market by market. AT&T meanwhile has said its LTE-M network will be deployed nationwide by the end of the second quarter but the only live market AT&T has discussed publicly is San Francisco.

AT&T has been a longtime partner of Sony’s Altair Semiconductor, which has also launched a Cat-M1 chipset. This month the company said its ALT1250 includes global band support, security and location capabilities that surpass the functionality of existing chipsets. Altair said its new chip is about the size of a shirt button and includes a wideband RF front-end that can support unlimited combinations of LTE bands within a single hardware design.

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