AT&T hones IoT focus with two new initiatives ahead of MWC Americas

AT&T touted its IoT efforts ahead of this week's MWC Americas.

AT&T announced two new IoT initiatives ahead of an inaugural Mobile World Congress Americas show that will focus heavily on the burgeoning world of connected devices.

The carrier unveiled AT&T Asset Management – Operations Center, which runs on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and is designed to help businesses track, monitor and manage IoT systems that have been deployed. The offering uses several other enterprise-centric components from Microsoft and supports multiple devices, communication protocols, networks and cloud environments through a single IoT app.

The offering uses AT&T’s IoT Platform Services to support high availability for large-scale deployments. It will initially be used on AT&T’s Global SIM on LTE and LTE-M networks, but in the future will be available through multinetwork connectivity including support for satellite-based services and Wi-Fi.

“AT&T is committed to giving our enterprise customers the tools, platforms and the connectivity they need to more securely manage their IoT assets wherever they’re deployed,” said Chris Penrose, president of AT&T’s IoT solutions, in a press release. “AT&T and Microsoft have a longstanding relationship, and we’re pleased to once again team with them through the new (offering) to deliver a flexible solution to help address our customers’ current and future IoT needs.”

A beta version will be available for customers later this year.

Separately, the No. 2 carrier in the country said it completed the first LTE-M international data session between the United States and Mexico as it builds out its IoT network south of the border. It completed LTE-M pilots in the Mexican cities of Tijuana and Puebla, it said, and conducted what it believes was the world’s first international data session on LTE-M.

AT&T said in May that it had completed deployment of its LTE-M network across America, and it announced a new suite of rate plans with LTE-M starting for as little as $1.50 per device. The carrier plans to deploy LTE-M across Mexico by the end of this year to create a footprint covering 400 million people as it seeks to leverage its expansion into that market.

The company has tested LTE-M chipset technology with Qualcomm and network technology with Ericsson. And it touts the low-power wide-area technology’s ability to provide better coverage in buildings and underground than traditional LTE, as well as providing battery life of up to 10 years and module sizes “as small as a penny.”

“The success of these pilots validates we’re on schedule to expand our North American footprint this year,” said Carlos Sánchez, AT&T’s CTO in Mexico, in another release. “The possibilities for business customers on both sides of the border are endless.”

Consumer IoT is one of the six core event themes at MWC Americas 2017, with panels addressing a variety of topics such as networks and technologies, business models, apps and investments. But the nascent segment still faces some major hurdles before it constitutes a mass market, Joe Madden of Mobile Experts told FierceWireless recently.

“We’ve been looking at this for a couple of years so I don’t expect to be surprised by new use cases” at the show, Madden said. “I think we’re reaching a step now where it’s more about bringing costs down, making things interoperable between vendors, between different systems, how do you analyze the data…. It’s going to be about making it practical and going from the early adopters to more mainstream.”