AT&T says its nationwide NB-IoT network is up and running

AT&T says NB-IoT is optimized for stationary use cases with basic data requirements like simple sensors, on-off buttons, smart agriculture, smoke detectors, door locks and industrial monitors. (Pixabay)

AT&T said it has officially turned on its narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) network after completing upgrades to its 4G LTE cell sites across the country.


With the arrival of the NB-IoT network, AT&T now offers business customers two low-power wide area networks (LPWANs) designed for IoT. “Both networks are designed for the IoT within licensed spectrum and provide carrier-grade security,” Chris Penrose, president of IoT Solutions at AT&T Business, in a blog post announcing the launch. “Having both networks offers our business customers more options to implement IoT solutions with security, interoperability, and lower costs.”


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AT&T  launched its nationwide LTE-M network in May 2017 for IoT while it mulled over launching an NB-IoT network. The company at the time believed that LTE-M was the preferred IoT network technology because it offers two-way communication, greater capacity for throughput, and could handle voice.


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Analysts expect NB-IoT to eventually be the dominant cellular standard for IoT devices, but say there is room for many forms of low power connectivity because a wide variety of devices will ultimately be connected.


In June 2018, AT&T announced it would join the fray and committed to launch its own NB-IoT network to operate alongside its LTE-M network. At the time, AT&T’s David Allen said the company views the two technologies as complementary to one another.


“NB-IoT is optimized for stationary use cases with basic data requirements like simple sensors, on-off buttons, smart agriculture, smoke detectors, door locks and industrial monitors,” Penrose said in the blog post. “LTE-M, with its greater bandwidth, can support firmware and software updates, mobility and voice-over services.”


He added that AT&T has deployed pet trackers, asset management, medical wearables, and utility meters so far over LTE-M.


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Penrose said AT&T is working with suppliers to certify $5 modules that can connect devices to the NB-IoT network. He also said that multi-mode modules that support both NB-IoT and LTE-M “are not far behind.”


Rivals T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint all announced plans to launch NB-IoT networks within the 2018 time frame. T-Mobile was the first to market with its network, which went live in July 2018.


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