The following is an excerpt from a recent guest post in Electronic Design’s ‘11 Myths’ series, from Digi Principal RF Engineer, Matthew Schellin. In it, Matthew discusses some common myths about cellular carrier certification to avoid.
1. FCC testing is all that we need for the device
The certification requirements for each carrier are very specific. Although they sometimes adhere to certain Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirements, they typically include specifications that are unique to each specific network.
2. We don’t need to go through PTCRB certification because we’re using a PTCRB-certified module
Modules can be PTCRB-certified. When a device integrates such a module, the device will still be required to go through PTCRB testing. The process will test the interfaces that changed between the approval of the module and the device under test (DUT). These typically include the SIM card, power supply, and antenna (OTA) interfaces. PTCRB testing for products that contain pre-certified modules includes RSIC and radiated spurious emissions (RSE).
3. As long as we follow the module reference design, we will have low risk of failing certification
Following the reference design will help with certification, but doesn’t necessarily eliminate the risk of failing certification. The surrounding circuitry will affect the performance of the module. Noise from power supplies, cables, or LCD screens has been shown to produce noise in the cellular band that will impact sensitivity levels and lead to certification failures.
4. Our device already has FCC certification, so we can add cellular capability without any issues
FCC certification doesn’t guarantee carrier certification. Some of the things carrier certifications focus on aren’t covered by FCC certification, including RSIC and TIS levels.
5. Our device is certified on one carrier, so we’re good to get onto any carrier network
Each carrier is unique and will have a different set of requirements to meet before the product is allowed on their network. Some carriers care primarily about PTCRB certification and less about factors such as TIS; some require additional testing for Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks; some rely on FCC compliance for RSE testing and others don’t go that route. It’s critical that designers and engineers are aware of the most up-to-date information on each carrier’s requirements.
New cellular protocols are set to roll out in 2017 to provide low power and low cost cellular connectivity for industrial Internet of Things applications. Digi Chief Innovator, Rob Faludi, explains both LTE-M and NB-IoT low bandwidth protocols by breaking down the differences between the two and sharing some examples of their use in industrial applications.
The 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) is a global consortium of various telecommunications associations. In the late 1990s, the 3GPP was organized to establish 3G cellular specifications based on evolved Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) specifications within the scope of the International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 project of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
Since then the scope of 3GPP standards have expanded to cover 4G LTE and evolving standards like LTE Cat 3, LTE Cat 4 and LTE Cat 1. Carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, and Vodafone are rapidly rolling out networks for LTE-M and NB-IoT.
Let’s sort it out:
Example Applications for Narrowband Cellular
These new narrowband standards have made cellular relevant for applications that only need to connect once in a while and send small packets of data. The makers of remotely deployed sensors and equipment that operates in far flung places, often running on battery or solar power, now have a cellular connectivity option. Digi XBee Cellular simplifies embedded cellular connectivity by reducing or eliminating the time and cost of development and certification to incorporate cellular technology into a wide array of applications.
Lighting for streets and parking lots – centrally manage and control city-wide networks of street lights.
Oil & Gas and industrial process controls – keep an eye on remote equipment, such as tank levels, temperature, pressure and other sensors.
Variable message signage (VMS) – applications ranging from signage to traffic sensors.
Environmental monitoring – solar panels can report power generation hourly to a cloud-based applications.
Regardless of our age, we can all attest to the advancements the automobile industry has made throughout its history, but the Internet of Things (IoT) has accelerated this change even more with smart cars, hybrid and fully electric cars, and strides being made towards to self-driving cars. It is truly fascinating and our imaginations are sparked with automotive innovation on all scales from green transportation to open-source development platforms, like M2 by Machinna.
Macchina M2 is an open source automotive interface that allows car hobbyists, enthusiasts, and professionals the creative ability to program a device and service into the automotive aftermarket. This ‘one-to-many’ interface allows engineers to design a single device that will sync with different firmware and software architecture. The device includes an Arduino board, equipped with a USB port, LEDs, SD card slot, built in EEPROM, and is compatible with Digi XBee. This socket compatibility combined with the Digi XBee family footprint, users can embed cellular connectivity with Digi XBee cellular. This means makers can bypass complicated end-device certifications and provides end-users the option to upload and download live data. Check out theFirst Look: Macchina M2article on Hackaday for more software and hardware design details.
We are excited to partner with this project and our community to bring embedded cellular IoT innovation to the automotive industry. Watch the video below to see just how easy it is to connect Macchina to Digi XBee Cellular, and let us know what you think!
With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and its expanded communications requirements, comes the increase of IoT devices designed and manufactured for use on cellular networks. To keep the wide availability of cellular WANs under control combined with the demand for IoT solutions, cellular carriers maintain high compliance standards that require certifications tests before an IoT device is allowed on their networks. This compliance process is complicated, complex and ever-changing due to the variety of carrier requirements and how they may vary from one product design to the next.
Below are four recommendations to stay ahead of cellular carrier requirements and passing initial carrier certifications – the first time:
Know the key design functions of supporting compliance
Successful cellular compliance is divided into two key parts – hardware and firmware designs. Selecting the correct module, antenna and EMI control for your cellular IoT device are critical hardware design functions. To support carrier certifications your firmware should include manual cellular module control, a fallback option to retry data connection, and supported firmware updates along with over-the-air-provisioning.
Consider carrier requirements in the early stages of design
Product design teams have several moving parts to account for when creating project plans for new cellular products. This has frequently caused cellular compliance to be overlooked by designers until the last minute or until it is too late, which often results in first-test failures.
Avoid common myths about cellular carrier certifications
Each cellular carrier requires a variety of individual standards when designing and manufacturing cellular devices, beyond FCC certification requirements, which complicates and confuses the compliance process. This is why OEMs, manufacturers and solution providers should not make any assumptions and should avoid common myths, like the ones mentioned in 11 Myths about Cellular Certification Requirements.
Partner with a proven expert
Working with a proven expert to manage the wide range of carrier requirements will help save resources and increase time to market, without the hassle and headache of having a product fail certification tests. Working with a specialist like, Digi Wireless Design Services, from the early design phase to the final product launch will provide the experience needed to pass both FCC and carrier certification tests.
Recently, Digi Product Marketing Manager, Andrew Lund and Senior Product Manager, Brent Nelson sat down with M2M Zone for an in-depth discussion about connectivity types in the IoT space, next-generation cellular networks, and what it all means for your IoT/M2M applications.
There were so many great questions from attendees that we wanted to share our top 4 questions with Andrew and Brent’s responses. Additionally, you can watch the webinar in full by clicking the video at the end of this post.
1. How does LTE-Cat 1 compare with LTE-M and NB-IoT? Brent: So LTE-Cat 1 is available now. LTE-Cat 1 is essentially 3G type of speed, it’s a scale down from typical LTE. It does not have the power saving modes that you will get in the two narrow band standards that I mentioned, but it does bring down the cost of the module significantly. So I view LTE 1, which again is available now, as kind of the first time you could put LTE in a machine-to-machine product and not price yourself out of the market because you really didn’t need LTE.
LTE-Cat M then drops down to 2G speeds, and that’s where you start seeing the power saving modes. And narrow band IoT is sub-2G speeds, it’s sub-100 kilobytes per second and an increased battery life. So that’s kind of the progression of the different networks.
2. So where will the IoT application typically reside in the LPWAN market? Will it be inside or outside the narrow band centered device, or both? Brent: So in general, it’s always going to depend on the use case, as you get lower and lower power, you’ve got lower and lower processing. So you’ve got typically less intelligence on the edge and more intelligence in the cloud. It’s all about getting the data up to the cloud as inexpensively as possible.
Andrew: I was going to say the same thing. I think the other notion would be to take a security angle on it. Given that there may be limited power, limited processing, and limited memory on the edge, I think there’s also the notion that there’s limited ability to defend against security threats, potentially. And so, like you said, getting the data to the cloud in a safe and reliable way is the most important thing.
3. Will the new Cat M and NB-IoT use regular SIM cards? Brent: Yes, although I think you’ll see much more of a move to the embedded SIMs as we go forward. I guess I’m not 100% positive of how the technology will support that, but I know generally in the market you’ll see more and more moves to embedded SIMs versus the standard kind of SIM that shows up in a credit card format.
4. Do the current M2M management platforms need to be upgraded to work with these new technologies? Andrew: So, “upgraded” can mean a lot of different things. But it seems to me that to the extent that a new LPWAN technology provides insight into what’s going on at the network level, at the physical level in terms of RF quality, packet loss latency, and so forth. If there’s something interesting that LPWAN technology can tell a management platform about what’s going on in the field, then that management platform would need to be upgraded to take full advantage of that. That’s how I would approach that.
Brent: The management platforms understand that these devices are not always reachable. And things like timeouts where I didn’t get a response versus in this amount of time, when you get to those lower power, higher latency devices that might break your system. And we see that as we look at our router products which are connected all the time versus our battery-powered IoT products which connect very rarely.
The management platforms can handle it, but sometimes the mentality of the user can’t because they expect things to be connected all the time, and that’s just not going to be the case with the battery IoT products.
And that might be the case with certain, even like SCADA systems that expect the device to be connected all the time. And if it’s not, they error out. So I can see some updates required in those type of systems.
Digi XBee Cellular is the latest member of the Digi XBee family, a family that includes a wide range of RF protocols and standards designed to meet the needs of users, makers, and Original Equipment Manufactures (OEMs). These wireless modules have evolved into generations of series options to choose from depending on the application, firmware configuration, hardware design, and networking protocol.
Supported by the Digi XBee ecosystem, Digi XBee Cellular is not just hardware, but includes software (XCTU for configurations), and libraries of resources, community and support services (WDS for antenna design). But, the primary benefit of Digi XBee Cellular is that it is pre-certified and ready for OEMs to quickly and securely integrate cellular connectivity into their solutions and devices. While still sharing the same Digi XBee footprint and software interface across many wireless technologies, users have the design flexibility to switch between wireless protocols or frequencies as needed.
We know designing devices with cellular connectivity that meets the compliance standards of cellular carriers presents its challenges. This is why we designed the Digi XBee Cellular development kit to make is simple and quick for OEMs, hardware and software engineers, corporate technologist, educators, and students to successfully integrate embedded cellular.
Below are frequently asked questions and answers to get started with your first Digi XBee Cellular dev kit, and did we mention 6 months of free data?
1. What’s in the Digi XBee Cellular Development Kit? • Digi XBee Cellular LTE Cat 1 embedded modem
• 1 Digi XBee development board
• 1 LTE Cat 1 SIM for Verizon
• 6 months of free cellular service
• Antennas and power supply
2. If only one antenna is used, will the Digi XBee Cellular Modem still be carrier end-device certified?
Yes. The modem has been certified for both single and dual antenna configurations. More information on antenna specification requirements can be found in the User Guide. And, Digi WDS can help with integrated antenna designs for your enclosure.
3. The development kit includes 6 months of free cellular data service. How much data can I use per month?
6 months of free cellular service will be limited to 5MB/month and recommended to use 100 SMS per month or less. The kit is for testing purposes only, not for production.
4. How much current does Digi XBee Cellular use in Deep Sleep mode?
Digi XBee Cellular only uses 10uA of current in Deep Sleep mode making it ideal for battery and solar powered applications.