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How to address low power app implementation in LTE-M and NB-IoT

The first of a new series of Quectel Master Classes which are designed to teach listeners new techniques and to help familiarize FAEs with solutions to common problems, has been held and is available to watch here. The Master Class covered the topic of: How to address low power app implementation in NB-IoT and LTE-M.

Both network technologies are starting to be adopted in larger volumes and, partly because they address applications with needs for lower bandwidth than alternatives such as common LTE Cat4 or the latest 5G enhanced Mobile Broadband, they are being utilized to support low power applications. This installed base and expected growing uptake of the technologies is enabling common issues to be identified, along with resolutions.

The Master Class began with a communications process overview to refresh viewers’ knowledge and set the scene for the rest of the session, which also covered popular challenges such as:

   ●  Issues and solutions during cell search

   ●  How to handle attach reject

   ●  How to skip inactive time

   ●  Optimizing high level apps for low power

Containing in-depth technical solutions to these common issues, the Master Class features tips and tricks to address issues throughout the attachment process, focusing on stages that could take more time, like PLMN selection and frequency scanning, but also on the attachment request/reply mechanism itself. Along the way, the session addressed common roaming SIM misconceptions.

Later in the Master Class, techniques to accelerate network searching time, such as reducing the number of bands to search or locking to a specific channel were explained. In addition, the technique of executing special commands only once because each will trigger a new scan even if you set the same value was detailed.

The session also examined popular issues such as how to handle there being no fallback in LPWA, explaining why LPWA modules can’t be like 2G/3G/4G counterparts that switch around RATs automatically. It also explored how to address no cell reselection in NB-IoT, pointing out that if the signal is low but the cell still exists, the module will not switch to a better cell when waking up from PSM. It will only do so when in idle and may not reselect, even if a good enough connection has already been found. This scenario was brought to life using the example of a connected parking sensor.

The Master Class contained detailed technical explanations of these and several other common challenges and provided descriptions of elegant ways to solve commonplace issues. With both LTE-M and NB-IoT accelerating popularity, such challenges are becoming more and more popular so this Master Class provides a valuable learning tool to gain new knowledge or augment your existing understanding.