LTE Cat 1 bis was introduced as part of 3GPP Release 13 in 2016. Since then, it has been a little unclear exactly how it would fit into the panoply of cellular network technologies. Cat 1 bis devices are significantly cheaper, smaller and lower power than LTE Cat 1 (which is itself aimed at IoT applications), and with minimal impact on performance compared to LTE Cat 1. However, there was always a question mark over its ability to compete with the mMTC technologies LTE-M and NB-IoT given their superior coverage, battery life and assumed lower cost. However, deployment of LTE-M and NB-IoT has proved to be slower and more regionalised than might have been previously assumed. This leaves the door open for Cat 1 bis, although in the long run it is dependent on (4G) LTE deployments whereas those other technologies will continue to be supported as part of 5G standards in the long term.
In this report we examine the capabilities of Cat 1 bis, and particularly focus on how it compares to LTE-M and NB-IoT. We consider deployment parameters such as uplink/downlink, latency, range, in-building coverage, unit price, power consumption, network availability globally, voice support, futureproofing, and module availability.
The report also includes a top-level forecast of how many Cat 1 bis devices we expect to ship, relative to other LTE technologies.