AT&T threw its hat into the NB-IoT ring, launching a nationwide network in the US and turning attention to a planned deployment in Mexico.

The operator goes head-to-head with rival T-Mobile US, which launched a nationwide network in July 2018, but stole a march on Dish Network, which is gearing up for commercial service in 2020.

Chris Penrose, AT&T’s IoT chief, said in a blog post the move represents “a big step toward massive IoT and 5G” and will “help unlock the next wave of IoT connections”.

The launch follows AT&T’s rollout of LTE-M service in the US and Mexico in 2017, and is in line with a schedule Penrose previously disclosed.

He noted the operator plans to expand its NB-IoT service across Mexico, with deployments expected to begin later this year.

Unlike LTE-M, which offers faster speeds and support for voice services, NB-IoT is best suited to stationary use cases with very basic data requirements, including simple sensors, smoke detectors and smart door locks.

Penrose said the operator is aiming to make IoT products more accessible to businesses which “may not have even thought that connectivity solutions were possible for them” by keeping costs low, working with suppliers to offer $5 modules to connect devices to its network and offering tariffs which start at $5 per device per year.