AT&T vows nationwide launch of LTE-M in Q2

AT&T said it will deploy its nationwide LTE-M network ahead of schedule, bumping the launch up to the second quarter of 2017, and will roll out the technology in Mexico by the end of the year as the IoT ramps up.

The nation’s second-largest carrier initially enabled LTE-M in San Francisco last fall to support a pilot at AT&T Labs in San Ramon. LTE-M is designed to support large-scale IoT deployments by enabling lower device costs, longer battery life, better coverage underground and in buildings, and by connecting modules that are one-sixth the size of current modules.

“Thanks to the success of our pilot, we’re on track to support LTE-M devices across our commercial network in the U.S. and Mexico ahead of schedule,” said Chris Penrose, president of IoT solutions for AT&T, in a press release. “We’re seeing real momentum for LTE-M that will let us connect more end points than ever before. And we can do it at a lower cost with superior performance and carrier-grade security.”

The operator said it’s testing LTE-M in a variety of use cases with different vendors, connecting smart water meters with Capstone Metering; smart pallets with RM2; consumer devices with Samsung; and home security and automation services with Telular. AT&T has launched a second LTE-M pilot in Columbus, Ohio, and will continue the San Ramon pilot with more partners through the end of March.

LTE-M is viewed as a key technology for the IoT because – unlike traditional LTE networks – it’s targeted specifically for the low-power, low-cost needs of a range of connected gadgets. The carrier has said batteries for LTE-M devices could last up to 10 years, and that models could cost roughly $5 to $10. It also could support network speeds of as much as 100 Kbps, whereas NB-IoT speeds are much slower.

Like other carrier-backed technologies designed to serve the IoT, carriers tout LTE-M’s use of licensed spectrum, which they claim can provide fewer interference problems than LPWAN offerings that use unlicensed airwaves.

“Seeing our devices live in the field shows our vision is quickly becoming reality,” RM2 CEO John Walsh said in the release. “Our combined work has proven we have a technology that can cause real improvement in the logistics services industry.”