Verizon launched the first US-wide LTE-M network, covering 2.4 million square miles, which the company said will accelerate IoT adoption in the country.

The launch sees Verizon beat AT&T to nationwide launch, despite the latter’s vocal support of the technology in recent months. At CES in January, AT&T said it was aiming to roll-out “as fast as possible” and last month said the network would be ready during Q2.

LTE-M – also known as LTE category M1 (CatM1) – is one of three licensed low power wide area (LPWA) technologies alongside NB-IoT and EC-GSM IoT. The technology faces competition from unlicensed alternatives, including networks supported by the LoRa Alliance and those developed by Sigfox.

As well as the US, LTE-M has found support in Europe from tier one operators Orange and KPN. The 3GPP’s NB-IoT meanwhile has seen stronger support in Europe and Asia in particular.

LTE-M is particularly suitable for applications between 50kb/s and 1Mb/s, needing a battery life of several years. Typical use cases for LTE-M are payment terminals, electricity meters and fleet management.

Earlier this year industry body GSMA claimed LPWA networks will surpass 2G, 3G and 4G connectivity to become the leading technology for IoT in five years. The GSMA said LPWA will power a total of 1.4 billion connections by 2022, citing analysis from Machina Research.

Virtualised cloud environment
Verizon said its LTE-M network is built on a virtualised cloud environment to allow rapid deployment of low power IoT services and nationwide scaling for use cases.

In a statement, Verizon network VP Mike Haberman said: “As the natural shift from CDMA-based IoT solutions to the more robust and cloud-based LTE technology occurs, it’s important we stay ahead of that technology evolution for our customers so we can continue to provide them service on the best and most advanced wireless network. Our commercial deployment of the nationwide LTE Cat M1 network does just that.”

Verizon’s SVP for business products and IoT, Mike Lanman, added the launch was a “game changer” which will enable: “a broad range of sensors and new categories of devices with better power efficiency and longer battery life than current IoT solutions.”

In addition to launching the network, Verizon said it was providing IoT-specific data plans to take into account the low bandwidth use of many devices and bulk nature of commercial deployments.