Quick, what was the catalyst that launched the growth of the Internet?  Some may argue that it was Windows 95, as it allowed for a better experience in a browser, at least compared to what we had before.  Others may argue that the Internet never really took off until we started to see the availability of high speed networks like DSL in the home.  Finally, others may argue that it never fully took off until we saw the availability of IP-based cellular networks.

Regardless of when you think it was, the Internet changed our lives in an incredibly rapid fashion. It changed how we banked, booked travel, communicated and it opened the doors for many of the largest companies on the planet including Google, Amazon and Uber.

In a similar fashion, many have speculated about the expected hyper-growth of IoT.  According to some, we are in that growth today, but I totally disagree. I don’t believe that we are in that phase yet and we won’t even begin until the upcoming launch of CAT M.

Why CAT M is a game-changer

Having started in the cellular data game close to 2 decades ago, I have seen the growth of the industry like few others.  In my opinion, many of the same customers that started cutting their teeth on early technologies like 1x and GPRS are still in the game, having moved forward in technology over the years.  For the most part, we have not seen nearly as many new entrants to the world of IoT as one would have thought, despite the incredible prowess of technologies like LTE.

Why is that?

The biggest advantage to a technology like LTE is speed.  The network is so fast by historical standards that it does not really even make sense sometimes.  Think back to when you used to use dial-up.  Imagine if someone told you that you would be able to browse at hundreds of times faster speeds while waiting for the bus?  While we like to complain about how slow networks can be sometimes, the technology truly is amazing for browsing the Internet.

However, the technology does not add much value for customers who have little need for speeds much faster than dial-up.  If you are gathering “bits and bytes” of data, why does it matter how fast the network is?  It is like moving a snail from a school zone to the autobahn….they aren’t going to get any extra benefit from the increased speed.  Sure, LTE also offered other advantages, but it was not enough to excite many legacy customers and often, not enough to get potential new customers to move to cellular data.

Enter CAT M…

CAT M will offer speeds that are still compelling to many customers who need slightly faster than “snail speed”.  However, since it will bring down the cost, many customers who found cellular data to be too expensive can now justify its expense.  This is both from the rate plan, as well as from the cost of the module itself.

In addition, it offers the advantages of:

Lower power consumption  One of the drawbacks for some customers to use cellular data in their solution was the extra power draw for the module.  While it still draws power, the CAT M modules will be more “Prius-like” in their power usage

Better RF reception  While I can’t say that using CAT M will mean that you never go out of cellular coverage, it offers an increased signal gain versus other current technologies

Only requires one antenna  Most 4G technologies required two cellular antennas to maximize its capabilities.  CAT M offers the ability to use a single cellular antenna, reducing cost and increasing flexibility

Increased network capacity for the carrier  While you may think that this is not a benefit to the end user, the ability for CAT M to use smaller packet sizes during transmission means a smoother experience for users.

The Bottom Line

CAT M is a major leap forward in the world of IoT and I predict the sales results will definitely show that its launch was the real start of the “hockey stick curve growth” that we are going to see.  I expect that this growth will be accelerated further when future technologies emerge.