Telecoms giant AT&T has announced plans to launch narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) networks in the US and Mexico. The new networks will provide connectivity for what AT&T believes is a growing demand from business customers for IoT solutions.
“We plan to launch NB-IoT in the US early next year, followed by Mexico by the end of 2019,” AT&T confirmed in a statement. The technology will complement AT&T’s existing LTE-M network infrastructure across Mexico and the US.
Preparing for the future of connectivity
AT&T’s move is in many ways a precursor of what is to come. Major telecoms companies are jostling for position to offer businesses access to NB-IoT, a standard for low-power, wide-area network (LPWAN) technology that enables communication between devices at lower costs and with longer battery life.
Earlier this year, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom completed Europe’s first NB-IoT roaming trial and Verizon announced plans to rollout NB-IoT guard band across the US. Telstra has made similar progress in Australia.
“We’ve seen global momentum for LPWA since launching our North American LTE-M network last year,” said Chris Penrose, president of IoT solutions at AT&T. “Adding NB-IoT to our portfolio will expand our LPWA capabilities, help drive investment in our evolution to 5G, and support our customers as they deploy IoT solutions across the US and Mexico.”
In May, industry trade group GSMA reported that 24 mobile operators had commercially launched 48 mobile IoT networks worldwide across both NB-IoT and LTE-M. It predicted that there will be 1.8 billion licensed LPWA connections by 2025.
In a report titled, ‘NB-IoT and LTE-M in the 5G context’, the GSMA also highlighted the central role that mobile IoT networks, including NB-IoT, have to play in the future of 5G connectivity – particularly with the development of ‘massive IoT’ in mind.
“While people often associate 5G with superfast mobile broadband speeds, it will also serve a variety of use cases often with diametrically opposed requirements, such as low data rates and long battery life,” said Alex Sinclair, CTO at GSMA.
“Licensed NB-IoT and LTE-M networks are already delivering trusted connectivity today to millions of devices around the world, and these networks will continue to be a fundamental component of our 5G future ushering in an era of massive IoT.”
Internet of Business says
AT&T’s new NB-IoT networks will be deployed via software upgrades at cell sites across the US and Mexico. The company’s 5G network is due to launch in several parts of Texas by the end of 2018.
AT&T said in a statement that one key to increasing LPWA adoption is “building a broad base of ecosystem partners, devices, and applications for global markets”. That sentiment is certainly reflected in the many partnerships that have already formed around the technology.