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IoT

A Year in the Life of a Cellular IoT Modem: Quectel's AT&T Story

Quectel Wireless Solutions says AT&T has certified its BG95-M3 module for use on the operator's LTE-M and NB-IoT networks, making it the first module that uses the Qualcomm 9205 modem to be adopted by the carrier for its cellular IoT networks.

But reaching this point hasn't been a quick process.

IoT modules are one of the building blocks of cellular IoT. The small electronic devices offer always-on connectivity for a variety of IoT devices. AT&T's current approved IoT modules use a range of chipsets produced by Sequans, Qualcomm, MediaTek and others.

The Quectel announcement shows how long it takes for IoT modules to make their way into major carrier networks.

Qualcomm first announced its 9205 modem chipset on December 17, 2018, and on July 15 this year, 16 module makers, including Quectel, announced they would build modules based on the 9205 modem.

On November 18 of this year, AT&T validated the 9205 modem for use on its Cat-M1 and NB-IoT 4G LTE networks, and Quectel announced its module was approved on December 17, 2019.

So it took a year for Qualcomm's chipset to go from release to being the modem in an approved module ready for use on the AT&T network.

The Quectel product isn't yet listed in AT&T's approved IoT modules catalog, which currently contains around 185 cellular IoT units, including a few NB-IoT modules and a handful of Cat-M1 modules.

It should also be noted that it costs $175,000 to get a chipset tested and validated by AT&T for use on its network. Whether that's a small or large price to pay will depend on how many resulting devices get shipped and deployed in the coming years.

Quectel says it will commence mass production of the BG95-M3 in January 2020.

December has been a fruitful month in the US for Shanghai-based Quectel. On December 2 it announced its ultra-low power NB-IoT module, the BC66-NA, had been approved by T-Mobile US.

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— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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