AT&T launches nationwide LTE-M network for IoT

IoT cellular (pixabay)
Advantages of LTE-M over traditional IoT connectivity options include better coverage for IoT devices underground and deep inside buildings.

Seven weeks after rival Verizon announced the launch of its LTE-M network nationwide, AT&T said it has completed deployment of its nationwide LTE-M network for the internet of things (IoT) ahead of schedule.

But AT&T isn’t done yet. The operator plans to deploy LTE-M across Mexico by the end of 2017 to create an LTE-M footprint covering 400 million people.

One of the big draws with LTE-M is supposed to be the price, and AT&T announced a new suite of rate plans with LTE-M, with monthly plans starting for as little as $1.50 per month per device.

Sponsored by VoltDB

Webinar: The Hidden Inflection Point in 5G: When the Changing Definition of Real-Time Breaks Your Existing Tech Stack

Rethink your definition of real-time to match the changing reality brought to the forefront by 5G. Your users expect milliseconds, in-event decision making. Is your tech stack ready?

Further discounts will be available for yearly and multiyear plans, as well as volume commitments, the operator said.

By comparison, when Verizon announced its LTE-M network launch in March, it referenced data plans as low as $2 per month per device, with customized options available for bulk activations and volume purchases.  

AT&T also said that its LTE-M modules will be available from its supplier for as low as $7.50 each, including a SIM card, which it said is half the cost of the LTE Cat 1 module AT&T launched with its supplier in 2016. In addition, its current IoT starter kits with M14A2A modules will be software-upgradeable to LTE-M with an upcoming firmware update.

"Our nationwide LTE-M deployment is another example of AT&T's continued investment and leadership in IoT," said Chris Penrose, president of IoT Solutions at AT&T, in a press release. "We can now reach new places and connect new things at a price that's more affordable than ever before. Our LTE-M starter kit will also spur developers to open the doors to IoT innovation."

The company said its LTE-M deployment—the result of software upgrades—marks another step forward on its path to 5G and massive IoT. And AT&T points out that the network is deployed with global, 3GPP standardized technology using licensed spectrum for carrier-grade security, something the companies touting noncellular IoT solutions can't say. 

LTE-M supports large-scale IoT deployments such as smart city services, smart metering, asset tracking, supply chain management, security and alarm monitoring and personal wearables.

Both AT&T and Verizon have described LTE-M as a game changer. Some of the advantages of LTE-M over traditional IoT connectivity options include longer battery life—up to 10 years—as well as better coverage for IoT underground and deep inside buildings. It also offers reduced module size; modules can be as small as 1/6 the size of current modules.

Most of the biggest U.S. operators are expected to deploy Narrowband IoT after LTE-M.

RELATED: Sprint to deploy LTE Cat 1 by end of July, with Cat M coming in mid-2018

Sprint recently said it will complete its deployment of LTE Cat 1 technology across its nationwide network by the end of July, with plans to begin deploying LTE Cat M in mid-2018 followed by LTE Cat NB1.

T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray tweeted in March that his company is focused on narrowband IoT and plans to support it in 2018.

Suggested Articles

The U.K. government is initiating plans to phase out the use of Huawei telecom gear in its 5G networks this year, according to multiple media reports.

Ericsson announced the general availability of its Standalone 5G New Radio (NR) software for low- and mid-band spectrum.

In a milestone for 5G, global wireless standards body 3GPP finalized Release 16 on July 3, its second set of specifications for 5G New Radio (NR).