AT&T to launch pilot of Cat-M1 technologies later this year to pursue IoT

AT&T (NYSE: T) said it will launch a pilot of Cat-M1 network technologies later this year as it looks to help businesses cut costs and boost device performance for IoT deployments.

The nation's second-largest carrier said Cat-M1 can operate on its existing LTE footprint and "flexibly co-exist" with mobile offerings in the same spectrum, and is designed to support next-generation devices including wearables and utility meters.

AT&T said it expects Cat-M1 to enable access to low-cost module technology; to extend the battery life of enabled devices 10 years or more; and to enhance coverage for underground and in-building areas where connectivity can be difficult. The pilot, which will be held at AT&T Labs in San Ramon, California, will represent IoT uses including alarm monitoring, smart meters, vending inventory and propane tank monitoring.

The carrier said some "key enterprise customers" will participate in the test program.

"Cat-M1 is an advantage for the millions of IoT devices and services coming on the market. We expect this pilot will prove that. This next-generation technology will help businesses gather near real-time information on assets around the world. It will bring a connected world closer to reality," said Chris Penrose, senior vice president, AT&T Internet of Things Solutions, in a prepared release. "Following the trial we plan to make Cat-M1 available commercially in 2017."

The announcement comes as carriers scramble to bring a variety of LTE-based flavors to market to compete in the emerging IoT market against proprietary, non-LTE technologies from companies such as Ingenu and Sigfox. Some of those non-LTE technologies are leveraging a time-to-market advantage as operators rush to create standards to make their offerings available. AT&T and other operators tend to favor standardized approaches because it enables them to deploy at scale and keep costs low.

Last month, an AT&T executive told Light Reading that the operator is pushing ahead with an all-LTE future for cellular IoT applications despite earlier suggestions that it might consider other low power wide area (LPWA) specifications.

For more:
- see this AT&T press release

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