5G Is Coming, But Qualcomm Sees Promise for 4G and IoT

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If you want to connect an appliance in your house to the cloud—the so-called Internet of Things (IoT)—for the most part you're limited to devices that run on either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Qualcomm, which makes the chips that power many of these devices, wants to change that.

With its new 4G LTE modems, the company says that smart home products and other IoT devices will soon be able to connect to cell phone networks, too. That might sound like overkill for a toaster or a living room lamp, but it could be transformative for gas meters, which are often hard to access and nowhere near a power outlet.

The modems, announced last fall, come in two flavors. The Snapdragon X5 LTE modem supports download speeds up to 150Mbps. Its cousin, the MDM9207-1, is much slower at 10Mbps, but offers a power-save mode that gives it up to 10 years of battery life from two AA batteries. Both modems also offer Bluetooth.

For gas companies, the promise of an LTE-enabled meter with its own power supply that only needs to be replaced once a decade amounts to a holy grail. Smart electricity meters have been around for a while, including those that connect via Wi-Fi, but delivering electricity to a device attached to an electricity meter is simple.

And it's not just gas meters that can benefit: Qualcomm announced today that it has 60 manufacturers working on more than 100 designs using the modems. Andy Wood, Qualcomm's director of business development for smart cities, said they run the gamut from smart parking meters to attachments that help construction companies keep track of their power tools.

There's been a lot of hype about how 5G will usher in the next generation of connected devices, but Wood is betting that 4G LTE will stick around, which makes it a logical choice for devices that are replaced once every 10 years.

"It's really important to the end customers that the networks will be around for a long time," he said.

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