What is LTE Cat-1 and How It Differs from LTE Cat M1 and LTE Cat M2?

LTE Cat-1 or Long Term Evolution Category 1, is one of 4G LTE technology variants created for the IoT. Within the LTE technology, there are over 20 distinct User Equipment (UE) categories with diverse uplink and downlink options. LTE Cat-1 is categorized as a lower-tier option, offering slow data speeds compared to the other higher LTE UE categories. At the same time, LTE Cat-1 utilizes less power and is simpler, making it well-suited for battery-powered devices commonly used in IoT applications. 

LTE Cat M1 VS LTE Cat M2 VS LTE Cat 1 

Despite belonging to the same LTE technology, Cat M1, Cat M2 and Cat 1 differ in the following way: 

Aspect 

LTE Cat M1 

LTE Cat M2 

LTE Cat 1 

Worldwide Coverage 

Poor/Medium - mostly in western industrial countries 

Poor/Medium - mostly in western industrial countries 

Excellent - same as LTE 

Bandwidth 

1.4 MHz 

1.4 MHz 

20 MHz 

Downlink Rate 

1 Mbps 

2 Mbps 

10 Mbps 

Uplink Rate 

1 Mbps 

2 Mbps 

5 Mbps 

Power Consumption 

Very low 

Lower 

Medium 

Latency 

10-50 ms (Typical) 

10-40 ms (Typical) 

10-30 ms (Typical) 

Use Cases 

IoT applications, asset tracking, smart meters, wearables 

Demanding IoT applications, industrial sensors, agricultural monitoring, remote monitoring 

Continuous data transmission, video streaming, gaming, mobile broadband 

Voice Capabilities 

Supports VoLTE 

Supports VoLTE 

Data-only (no native voice support) 

What Are the Cons and Pros of LTE Cat-1?

There are specific advantages of using Cat-1: 

  • Costs. With Cat-1 there’s a certain balance between cost and performance, especially for IoT use cases that imply medium-rate transfer.  

  • Coverage. LTE Cat-1 has been around for over a decade. It offers extensive coverage, facilitating global roaming and enabling the deployment of lots of devices across different geos. 

  • Futureproofing. LTE Cat-1 enables coverage to 2G and 3G networks. As many 3G networks are expected to be substituted in the coming years and the availability of 2G is unclear, LTE Cat-1 is becoming a reliable alternative for businesses in future. 

At the same time, LTE Cat-1 is a suitable choice mostly when there is a consistent requirement for devices to transfer significant amounts of data to or from a network.  When such a high data transfer is not required, the use of LTE Cat-1 may be unjustified. In addition, for some use cases restricted to specific regions (for instance, smart cities or healthcare applications) or involve the periodic transmission of smaller data volumes, ultra-low-power networks may be more appropriate. NB-IoT and LTE-M are some alternatives for basic applications with low-data requirements. 

What LTE Cat-1 Modules Are Available?

There are several brands and models of LTE Cat 1 modules available in the market. Here are some popular brands and their corresponding models: 

Quectel 

EC21/EC21 Mini EG91/EG91-NA/EG91-EX EC25/EC25 Mini/EC25-AF/EC25-AU 

Telit 

LE910-NA1 ME910C1-NV ME910C1-WW 

u-blox 

SARA-R410M-02B SARA-R410M-52B SARA-R410M-82B 

Sierra Wireless: 

HL Series (HL769x, HL78xx) WP Series (WP77xx, WP78xx) 

Gemalto (Thales): 

ELS61-E/ELS61-J ELS62-E/ELS62-J ELS31-V/ELS31-C 

SIMCom: 

SIM7000C/SIM7000E/SIM7000G SIM7600C/SIM7600E/SIM7600G