MWC 2018: How to expand the device eco-system for VoLTE over Cat-M1
At Mobile World Congress 2018 you can experience how the VoLTE over Cat-M1 device eco-system is starting to expand, enabling operators and other industries to improve their customer experience for Internet of Things (IoT). Ericsson has collaborated on a joint demo together with Telit, a global leader in IoT enablement, and their customer Safeline, a company delivering communication equipment for elevators. The demo is showing how VoLTE for IoT can help modernizing communication services in the industry segment.
Voice communication systems in an industry context have in general different requirements compared to consumer communication. Whereas mobile phones are typically replaced after 2-5 years depending on the country, industrial communication systems have a lifespan of decades. These life cycle requirements require special foresight on the technology evolution.
Upgrading old communication systems with new technology
Today many of the communication systems in the industry (e.g. vehicles, elevator communication etc.) are still based on 2G and 3G technology. These systems will be gradually phased out in the coming years. Systems, which are deployed today, need therefore to be based on future proofed technology such as VoLTE. VoLTE technology is the standard way to provide voice services in LTE, but also in upcoming 5G networks.
There two different standards defined in 3GPP: NB-IoT and LTE Cat-M1. Both standards have in common that they address the wide coverage, low battery, small form factor and low price segment. The main differentiator is that LTE Cat-M1 also supports VoLTE calls.
The solution is today ready for commercial deployments from an end-to-end perspective. Companies such as Telit offer commercially modules as the ME910C1 series, which provides Cat- M1/VoLTE functionality for different global frequency bands. Ericsson was the first vendor supporting LTE Cat-M1 with Ericsson LTE radio access system and using the Ericsson VoLTE IMS.
One example of a company which is using LTE Cat-M1 technology is Safeline, a Swedish company developing and delivering different kinds of elevator safety equipment, such as elevator communication panels. These panels are used in situations where people are getting stuck in elevators that go out-of-order.
Show case prototype at MWC 2018
For Mobile World Congress 2018, Ericsson, Telit and Safeline have put together a show case prototype of an elevator panel, with a Telit Cat-M1 ME910C1 supporting VoLTE, running over an Ericsson LTE radio access network and using Ericsson VoLTE functionality.
In the actual demo use case a user will just press the communication button on the elevator panel, and a VoLTE call is set-up towards a pre-defined service center number. In this demo a call is made to a regular VoLTE smartphone, but in a real-case scenario it would be sent to a service center, where the service operator would immediately see which elevator it is. Which in the service center system would be pre-defined, and the person calling for help could talk to a real person and get help.
Fig 1: Demo set-up in Ericsson booth at Mobile World Congress 2018. The small white chip inside the plastic box, is the Cat-M1 module by Telit enabling VoLTE calls. The rest of the surrounding electronic equipment is used for the regular elevator panel functions.
Different IoT enabled devices will have different form factors depending on use case and where these will be placed, but the actual Cat-M1 module is small enough to be fitted into many different kinds of small IoT devices. For example, there could be a Telit Cat-M1 module in a small wearable device or in a larger electronics box for a different application/vertical (as in this demo use case).
Of course, smaller modems will allow smaller products, but we do not have to forget that often in the industry, there are companies requiring a retro-fit, or an adaption of existing solutions without re-designing their products completely.
Fig 2: Visitors in the Ericsson hall at Mobile World Congress, looking at the VoLTE over Cat-M1 demo with Telit and Safeline.
There was a lot of interest from the visitors at this demo for this new opportunity to add voice for IoT devices. The main questions were related to that this kind of calling capability in elevators already exists, so what is new? But when having heard the explanation that when GSM networks are being phased out, these kind of applications are also going to run over LTE going forward, it was understood why VoLTE over Cat-M1 is relevant in this kind of scenario, providing a cost efficient solution.
Telit is experiencing more and more interest from their customers to start testing the LTE and VoLTE functionality and expecting to start offering commercial modules later in 2018. To get the latest info, please contact Marco Argenton at Telit.
If you want to explore how to give your IoT devices a voice, using Ericsson VoLTE network equipment, please contact us.