CAT-0 Archives - eleven-x

Eleven-x Brings Low-Power Wide Area Network to Waterloo for IOT

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I am proud to share this article on eleven-x, featured in The Waterloo Region Record. The article describes a low-power wide area network that we have set up for the city’s use, for the purpose of connecting wireless sensors to the Cloud and testing the many uses that sensors will have in our lives.

We are grateful for the support of our local post-secondary institutions (University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, Conestoga College) and technology hubs (Communitech and Accelerator Centre). This is an exciting time for not just the wireless industry but for our community. This is the first public network of its kind in Canada, and is a major step towards realizing the potential of the Internet of Things.

Eleven-x boasts a world-class team developing wireless tech for IOT. We are looking for Senior Wireless Software Developers to join us! Visit our Careers page.


Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016: Big Hype and Real Data

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It is hard to believe that it has been a year since our first trip to Mobile World Congress (MWC). And as we madly prepare for this year’s conference, we reflect on last year’s event, and look forward to what we will learn and who we will connect with this time.

The exciting thing about MWC is that everyone in the industry goes. But behind all the flash of new product announcements and press releases, the engineers and decision makers from the trenches are also there to show off their hard work. Here you can meet the key players, find out the real story behind what they are doing, and learn the actual state of play.

A year ago, the wireless IOT solutions movement was just gaining traction. And in the year since, it has become the biggest story in telecoms. Talk of low bit rate, low-power networks has dominated wireless conversations, and the term LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Networks) became the hot acronym of the year.

Last year we met a group of engineers from a little company called Nuel who had just been bought by Huawei in 2014. They were excitedly showing off their prospective wireless technology for IOT applications that they had just introduced to the 3GPP standards body. We were impressed by the simplicity of their system. It was a wild ride for them this past year, as their technology was put through the 3GPP wringer. It merged with other technologies and was renamed at least twice. I hope we get a chance to meet these guys at the Narrowband-IOT summit at MWC, hear their version of the journey, and compare notes on current proposed solutions.

Having spent the last year implementing LTE CAT-1 and CAT-0 and looking at LTE-M, we have a good grasp of the possibilities and challenges here. But 3GPP is offering multiple paths for IOT: LTE-M, NB-IOT, and EC-GSM. This leaves a lot of questions in terms of who is deploying what and where. We are going to MWC for answers. We will be talking to carriers, module makers, chipset manufacturers and infrastructure vendors to build a picture of the market’s direction and also build key partnerships.

Another company we met last year was SIGFOX. Almost exactly a year ago, this French start-up announced a $115M funding round to build out its network globally. They made a bold move to build a worldwide IOT network in unlicensed bands, and took an innovative approach to driving adoption: by giving away the technology. The team was passionate and confident. But in the last year, their success has generated many rivals. This year we will talk to them again, and discuss how their expansion is going. We will also talk to representatives of their top competitor, LoRa. I still have doubts that these ISM technologies can provide a scalable, sustainable solution in the long term, but I look forward to discussion and competing opinions.

Virtualization was a big topic last year. Both core and RAN are primed for radical transformation. Last year NFV was being promoted by all the big infrastructure and equipment vendors. During the year we were lucky enough to get a front row seat to some initial testing of a vEPC solution. I am interested to see advances in virtualization: vRAN or cloudRAN blows my mind. The possibilities on how spectrum will be managed in the future using virtualization are astounding. This will be the really transformative part of 5G. While there were a couple of interesting demos last year, I hope to see some truly innovative stuff this year.

MWC 2016 is a huge, exciting event where the big players put on a big show. But it also gives us smaller guys a one-stop shop for access to the key players – of all sizes – in mobile. While being in the thick of the hype will be exciting, we expect to achieve and learn a lot. And going to Barcelona, well that is just icing on the cake.

Published on EETimes: Fragmentation Looms in IOT

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Our Co-Founder and CTO Fraser Gibbs is now a continuing contributor to esteemed industry website Aimed towards the global networking and electronics community, EETimes has published Fraser’s article on the Internet of Things (IOT). Specifically, Fraser explains how the 3GPP standards body is failing to serve the looming needs of IOT, and the repercussions of this failure.

Anyone developing products for the low-power, wide area wireless market will find this article of interest. Take a read and feel free to comment online or message Fraser Gibbs. Thanks so much for reading.

Published on EE Times!

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Fraser Gibbs, Co-Founder and CTO of eleven-x, has been published on EE Times, the go-to publication for global electronics. In his article, Fraser describes the limitations of unlicensed spectrum in the ISM band, as it pertains to IOT applications. You can read his article here, and post comments to EE Times or send to Congratulations to Fraser for his contributions to thought leadership on wireless connectivity for IOT.

eleven-x Conducts First Tests of LTE Cat-0, Power Saving Mode for 3GPP Release 12

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To do something first: in high tech, the notion is a thrilling one. We are certainly feeling the excitement in the field of wireless communications. As 3GPP is releasing its standards in support of IOT, eleven-x is proud to be working on the front lines. Over the last month, several members of our team hit the road to conduct demos and tests with some big-name players. We say that “we love innovating to solve real-world problems” and this was a wonderful opportunity to see our code in action.

In Ottawa, we took part in the industry’s first integration of LTE Machine Type Communications (MTC) devices on the Ericsson network equipment. The goal was to prove out the Power Saving Mode (PSM) and LTE Cat-0 features in support of 3GPP Release 12. This session of interoperability testing gave both parties a chance prove out our solutions, and take the first steps towards compliance. A successful first interoperability session is a major milestone in the development of any mobile technology.

From Canada’s capital city, we shifted gears and went to Las Vegas for the CTIA Super Mobility conference. We participated in two demonstrations for PSM and LTE Cat-0; one with Ericsson and one with Anritsu. It was the first time MTC was demonstrated to the public with Ericsson and showcased industry-leading low power consumption for IOT devices.

After the bright lights of Vegas, the big city of Dallas beckoned. At the Verizon test lab, we participated in interoperability testing for their network using equipment from Ericsson, Cisco, ALU, and Affirm.

Next week, another member of our team will be heading back to Ottawa, but this time in service of LPP development for a new chipset integration. It is a thrilling time at eleven-x. We love to be on the forefront of wireless innovation, and are excited to be on the leading edge of IOT.

LTE Cat-0’s Power Saving Mode: What it Could Mean for Cellular IoT

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We are supposedly on the IoT event horizon, ready to realize the promise of billions of connected things. Many of these things will find current mobile networks perfectly suited to their needs: high resolution sensors and HD video cameras will need the low latency and high bandwidths available with today’s LTE network.

A large number of IoT devices (some suggest the majority) will have different needs, demanding long battery life, low cost and better coverage. The mobile ecosystem has been busily preparing for these use cases through the MTC initiatives.

Today I will focus on Power Saving Mode (PSM), a 3GPP Release 12 feature which forms the backbone of 3GPP’s MTC power-saving strategy, and is an important part of LTE CAT-0 (which I first discussed in February). With this approach, the UE decides how often it needs to be active in order to transmit and receive data, entering PSM in between.

The mechanics of PSM are relatively simple. The UE activates PSM simply by including two proposed timer values in the Attach or Tracking Area Update (TAU). The first proposed timer is the T3324, which will be the time the UE stays in idle mode following the Attach or TAU procedure. The second proposed timer is an extended T3412. Network acceptance of PSM comes when the network provides the actual values of the T3324 and T3412 to be used in the Attach Accept.

Following the Attach or TAU procedure, the new PSM process begins. Once the network releases the RRC connection after the Attach/TAU, T3324 and T3412 are started, and the device behaves as any registered, idle LTE device would. This is called the Active Time and is there to provide the opportunity for a remote server to contact the device. The more certain a specific application is that no downlink data is pending, the shorter T3324 can be. Once T3324 expires, the device will then enter PSM for the duration of T3412. Here the device should enter its lowest power mode. It should not look for paging or any other network signaling.  The network should not page the device, and moreover, should hold any data that arrives for the UE while in PSM. It is important to note that while in PSM mode, the device and network maintain all UE states, including Radio Bearers, registration state, and temporary identities. The maximum duration of PSM (T3412) is 12.1 days. PSM mode can be cancelled anytime by the device by sending a TAU to the network that does not include the PSM timers.

Figure 1: PSM Flow

PSM puts the UE largely in the driver’s seat in terms of the power management needed for its application, which is very important. IoT applications will be wide ranging, and this type of flexibility is needed. With the network in sync with the device, it can better manage the data intended for the device. A properly-implemented network solution should be able to avoid congestion by managing the timers of all the devices using PSM, and adjusting the wake-up periods to be offset as much possible.  This way all of the devices will not wake at the same time and attempt to access the network.

As with all new features, there are still some potential issues and concerns. Most networks today expect contact with a mobile every 2-4 hours, otherwise the mobile is considered “not reachable” and quietly detaches it from the network. This helps the network constrain the number of mobiles it has to track.  Infrastructure vendors will now need to support tracking for millions of devices that will only contact the network once every week or two.

On the device side, there will be challenges as well. Sleep times are increasing from seconds to weeks.  There will be engineering challenges in keeping accurate timers, at the same time pushing down power consumption to new levels. IoT will revive the need for highly-skilled embedded engineering.

The question lurking in PSM is this: why not just shut off or cut power to the LTE modem for the long inactive periods? This is always a possibility. A full power-down would likely involve a detach procedure (extra signaling), losing track of the cell and having to re-acquire SIB information, then having to re-establish all the bearers (again more signaling and active time). So if power consumption during PSM can be driven to near “off” levels, then if could be even more efficient than when off. Again, this is where good engineering will improve either solution and make the correct choice for the particular application.

PSM is a key feature and a big step forward for Cellular IoT. It was defined for 2G, 3G and LTE networks and, at a high level, is a simple solution. But, as with most things, the devil will be in the details of the implementation. For some of my earlier thoughts on Cat-0, please refer to this post.

Where Are All of the Things for the Internet of Things?

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As expected, Internet of Things (IoT) was a major theme at MWC 2015. Specifically, cellular IoT, or what is also known as M2M (Machine to Machine). Countless companies showcased their products and services related to realizing billions of connected mobile devices by 2020. Infrastructure vendors have the network plumbing ready to go, and network function virtualization is poised to help with scalability. There is no shortage of cloud services companies, that’s for sure. And then there are a plethora of specialized products to manage everything from over-the-air firmware upgrades to carrier subscription management. But what about the things?

Don’t get me wrong, there were some interesting gadgets if you like smart watches and fitness trackers, but most of these need to be tethered to a smartphone. Do these even count as part of the billions of mobile IoT devices? Then there is connected car, which I’m sure is legit, but not billions by 2020. Concepts such as smart cities, smart factories, environmental monitoring, and healthcare monitoring are compelling, but products addressing these sectors were absent from the conference. Where are all of the things?

Designing, developing, manufacturing, and selling mobile devices is complex and expensive. The barrier to entry is high, preventing most companies from getting into this space. In addition, the cost of the devices is still too high for many applications. The other part of the story is the state of 3GPP cellular network technologies. They were designed for low-latency, high-bandwidth applications, which is the complete opposite to what most IoT devices will require. One example of unsuitability is related to paging. The mobile device must wake up every second or so to check if someone is calling. Having such a short standby time greatly impacts battery life, prohibiting remote monitoring applications that require years of battery life.

Luckily there is hope. LTE-M (or LTE Cat 0) is a new set of features being finalized in the 3GPP standards. It promises improved battery life and reduced component costs. Roll-out is expected to occur sometime in 2016. I suspect more devices will be available at that time. There are also two interesting cellular IoT alternatives that could shake things up. Check out Sigfox and Neul for more information.

I would love to hear your thoughts on cellular IoT networks and devices. You can contact me via email at or on twitter @ryanjhickey.

Believe the Hype? Early Announcements Drive Mobile World Congress 2015

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the topics I hoped would be prevalent at Mobile World Congress this year. If the flurry of pre-show press releases is any indication, I won’t be disappointed. MWC promises to make good on its reputation as the place to get a look at the future of mobile.

Huawei started this week with a bold announcement that touched on almost everything. They have laid out more detail on their 4.5G plans. While I am not a fan of made-up terms such as 4.5G, reaching 1 Gbps is a noteworthy milestone. Of course, they expounded on all of their work in the field of NFV/SDN and how this puts them on the path to 5G. The next part of their announcement was a statement on their M2M work. While not a lot of technical detail was given, they make claims of 10-year battery life and the ability to connect 100,000 “things” to a single cell. Find more detail here.

In other NFV news, Telekom Austria announced that it has deployed a multi-vendor vEPC supporting VoLTE in a live network. Actual deployment is a big step for a technology that promises to revolutionize the industry, but we await proof that it is up to the rigors of the real world. While this is a trailblazing move by TA, they have rolled this out on one of their small subsidiaries that at the current time has a small 4G user base. As the user based grows, it will be interesting to see if TA gets the benefits of scaling that NFV promises.

It’s not just giants that are making key announcement. It is good to see some up-and-comers forging ahead of the pack. See this announcement from Altair Semiconductor on their plans to provide CAT-0 chips this year.

So far the announcement that might have topped them all comes from academia. The University of Surrey reports wireless transfers of 1tbps on 5G. This topples all claims thus far by the major vendors. Find more here.

These are just a small sample of what has been announced over the last few days. If you need more, the folks at are keeping tabs on the MWC fervor. There is sure to be a lot more to come.