AT&T among those backing GSMA's Low Power Wide Area M2M initiative

With backing from companies like AT&T (NYSE: T), the GSMA has launched an initiative to accelerate the rollout of cellular networks customized for machine-to-machine communications.

Dubbed the "Mobile IoT Initiative," the project is designed to address the use of Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) solutions in licensed spectrum. The initiative is backed by 26 companies, including mobile operators, OEMs, chipset, module and infrastructure companies. However, even though they are members of the GSMA, U.S. operators Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ), Sprint (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) are not listed among the initiative's backers.

"We have spoken with all U.S. carriers and their absence from the group doesn't necessarily mean that they don't support what we are doing," said Shane Rooney, executive director of the GSMA, in a statement to FierceWirelessTech. "All U.S. operators are welcome to join if they wish."

GSMA says its Connected Living Programme is dedicated to the development of the Internet of Things (IoT). The program is open to all GSMA members, and it currently has 13 members focused on four key areas of the IoT: remote SIM provisioning for machine to machine (M2M); IoT business enablers; secure IoT networks; and low power, low data for further scaling of the IoT.

The new LPWA group will work to accelerate the commercial availability of mobile IoT technology by facilitating demonstrations, proofs of concept and trials of a selection of complementary LPWA licensed spectrum technologies, according to the GSMA. It will also provide analysis and feedback to assist 3GPP in standardizing the technologies.

Initial specifications for LPWA solutions are expected by the end of this year, with a first implementation in early 2016 and full commercial rollouts the following year.

As GSMA explains, LPWA networks are designed for M2M applications that have low data rates, long battery lives and that operate unattended for long periods of time. It's an emerging area of the IoT and represents a huge market opportunity as the IoT scales. Analysts expect there will be 2.7 billion LPWA connections by 2022.

"The market opportunity for LPWA will be a significant driver in the development of the IoT and it's essential that the mobile industry address the requirements for LPWA cases early on," said Alex Sinclair, acting director general and chief technology officer at GSMA, in a press release. "The industry is clearly united behind the Mobile IoT Initiative, providing a common vision to accelerate the availability of industry standard solutions, removing market fragmentation and accelerating adoption."

Besides AT&T, the initiative is backed by Alcatel-Lucent, Bell Canada, China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Etisalat, Huawei, Gemalto, Intel, KDDI, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Ooredoo, Orange,
Qualcomm, Sierra Wireless, Singtel, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor, Telstra, u-blox and Vodafone.

The GSMA has plenty of company in the IoT world. The LoRa Alliance also counts mobile operators among its members and it released the LoRaWAN R1.0 specification in June. The alliance wants to drive the growth of Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) globally and guarantee interoperability in an open carrier-grade network. Meanwhile, France-based Sigfox aims to get its low-throughput network rolled out in 60 countries within five years. Its network technology runs in the unlicensed 902 MHz band in the United States and the 868 MHz band in Europe.  

U.S. wireless carriers have a long history in the M2M world, which also has seen a degree of consolidation. In 2011, T-Mobile inked a deal with long-time partner and M2M aggregator Raco Wireless to make Raco its preferred partner for new M2M business and support. At the time, John Horn, T-Mobile's national director for M2M, left the carrier to become president of Raco Wireless. Last year, Kore Wireless Group announced it was acquiring Raco.

For more:
- see FierceWireless:Europe's take
- see this GSMA release
- see this ComputerWorld article

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