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CAT-M1 is great and it's everywhere in Mexico
Testing out low power cellular in Mexico (LPWAN, CAT-M1, IoT)
February 20, 2020
Raivis Strogonovs
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to visit Mexico, where CAT-M1 appears to be fully rolled out. Now this isn't [just] a post about my travels around Mexico, but also about the power of this technology and how beneficial it is.


CAT-M1 is a part of the LTE-M standard and it enables Machine to Machine (M2M) devices to connect to the existing LTE network, but with a much lower power requirement. Unlike the LTE you use for your smartphone, LTE-M is specifically designed for all of those little IoT devices that will sense everything from trash levels and environmental conditions, to whether the big pump that takes away the flood water is working. Use of the conventional cellular (for phones) network is possible for these devices, but not ideal as it was never designed for this purpose.

Many low power standards have sprung up using cellular, public band low power and those that have invested in licenses to acquire airspace just for devices. The cellular networks however offer a unique opportunity; they are proven, offer good bandwidth, their maintenance is not my problem (or my customers) and as mobile phones prove, it is easy to get going.

So, that takes me to my trip. I was travelling around Mexico on a road trip and was delighted to find that Mexico was leading the world on delivering CAT-M1 networks. Here is what we found:

1: It worked everywhere. I mean everywhere, on highways, villages in the middle of nowhere, centre of Pueblos (towns) and on the edge. Mexican people are addicted to their mobile phones and the capitalists have done well from providing coverage absolutely everywhere. People are as likely to have WhatsApp as have clean water in some places.
2: It was fast, we send relatively little data (as you would expect), but we are interested in latency and 'on time'. In Mexico, we lowered all records. Telemetry and updates alike were the fastest we have seen.
3: The device itself measured barely any power consumption. CAT-M1 with this type of sensors, in many cases, could end up lasting longer than the equipment they are attached to.
4: To get going with CAT-M1 we didn't have to do anything special. We used our global roaming connection and CAT-M1 was available to us right away. For customers, this type of plug and play capability can only be very compelling.

So, tequila, tacos and world leading access to low power M2M networks. All in all, a great time.