AT&T announced plans to roll out a new NB-IoT network in the US and Mexico, a move it said will add more deployment options to complement the offerings already available on its LTE-M network.
The operator will begin deploying the technology in the US early next year and follow up with a launch in Mexico by the end of 2019. As with its LTE-M rollout, AT&T said the NB-IoT capabilities will be added to its network via software upgrades to its cell sites. A company representative told Mobile World Live (MWL) the US deployment will use its 700MHz, AWS and PCS spectrum.
AT&T hasn’t settled on pricing, but expects to offer monthly plans as well as yearly and multi-year plans similar to those available on LTE-M.
In a statement, Chris Penrose, AT&T’s president of IoT solutions, said the move comes as the operator aims to tap into “global momentum” for low power wide area (LPWA) technologies it’s seen since launching LTE-M in the US and Mexico in 2017.
In September 2017, AT&T told MWL it wasn’t planning to take on NB-IoT until the technology offered differentiation from LTE-M. But GSMA Intelligence IoT analyst Sylwia Kechiche pointed out on Twitter the move makes sense now because “with 2G sunsetted there is a need for low data alternative for IoT”.
Indeed, AT&T said NB-IoT will be ideal for companies looking to meet basic data requirements for smart smoke detectors, parking meters, agricultural sensors, electric meters, industrial monitors, building automation and other simple on-off devices. LTE-M, on the other hand, offers more bandwidth, making it better suited to applications including asset trackers, fleet tracking, smart watches, home appliances, patient monitors and utility meters.
AT&T is in good company pursuing NB-IoT in the US. In February, Verizon revealed plans to launch an NB-IoT network this year and T-Mobile US aims to have a network up and running by the middle of this year.
Satellite operator Dish Networks also laid out plans for an NB-IoT launch, noting it expects to spend between $500 million and $1 billion to build its network over the next two years.