IoT Strategies

AT&T Settles on LTE for Cellular IoT

The Telecom Exchange NYC 2016, New York City -- AT&T is pushing ahead with an all-LTE future for cellular Internet of Things (IoT) applications, despite earlier suggestions that the operator could consider other low-power, wide-area specifications.

As recently as February, AT&T executives were open to at least the possibility of adopting other Low-Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) specifications. "We prefer the licensed [specifications], but obviously you're going to have multiple other options out there," Chris Penrose, SVP of Internet of Things at AT&T, said at Mobile World Congress. (See AT&T to Test 4G Specs for Unwiring IoT.)

"We did look at those... I think the decision that we have made as a company is that AT&T is going to standardize on the LTE stack as opposed to unlicensed bands," Mobeen Khan, AVP of AT&T IoT Solutions, at AT&T Mobile and Business Solutions, told Light Reading Wednesday.

AT&T has "many reasons" for the decision: The specialized IoT LTE technologies uses AT&T's existing spectrum; it's more secure and can be managed using existing infrastructure. "It has a lot of benefits for our customers," Khan said.

Want to know more about IoT? Visit the IoT section.

"We're not interested in the others, unless there's a strong customer need that's driving it for a specific customer. [In that case,] we'll look at it, but otherwise our standard offerings are LTE," Khan elucidated.

AT&T is going to standardize on Cat-M1 (a.k.a. LTE-M) for devices like smart meters and wearables. Cat-M1 is optimized to offer a 1Mbit/s connection but with superior battery life compared to the typical 4G smartphone radio chipset. The operator has just approved its first modules for this specification. There will be trials in the forth quarter.

For even lower-power applications, AT&T will use Cat-M2 (a.k.a. Narrowband-IoT) modules in units like smoke detectors and networked monitors. Cat-M2 is "still being specced out" but is anticipated to go to kilobits-per-second connection rates to further extend battery life, Khan said. AT&T will test Cat-M2 devices on the network in 2017 and hopes to go commercial early in 2018.

This doesn't mean that AT&T won't support any other types of networking for IoT. WiFi, Bluetooth and mesh networking will all be part of the mix.

"We're living in a multi-network world," Khan said.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

COMMENTS Add Comment
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TV Monitor 6/28/2016 | 12:16:03 AM
Re: New 5G development from Verizon and Qualcomm Dan Jones


Hell's freezing.

Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is proposing that Japan adopt 28 Ghz as the common 5G band between the US, Japan, and Korea.

Like Korea in 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, Japan too has pledged to launch commecial 5G service in Tokyo for 2020 Tokyo Olympics. According to Japanese government, the only 5G system ready to go by 2020 is the "28 Ghz" one, so Japan will harmonize 28 Ghz 5G service with the US and Korea in order to create single system that could roam freely between three countries.

This is a rather shocking turnaround, because Japan was pushing a unique under 10 Ghz 5G service until last year.

NTT Docomo is separately proposing a separate Chinese 5G network in 4.4~4.9 Ghz band in order to provide roaming service to Chinese visitors. Chinese are the biggest foreign tourtists to Japan.

In this case, Europe's being left out of roaming service in Japan according to Docomo, as Japanese deployment plan cannot cover European visitors. Docomo doesn't expect European 5G to be compatible with either "28 Ghz" 5G or Chinese 5G.
DanJones 6/27/2016 | 4:15:09 PM
Re: New 5G development from Verizon and Qualcomm 28Ghz makes sense for VRZ now because they have access to fixed wireless licenses now in that band. That's pre-5G standardization though, so let's see what the future holds for mobility and IoT.
TV Monitor 6/27/2016 | 10:50:46 AM
Re: New 5G development from Verizon and Qualcomm Gabriel Brown

"it is widely accepted that 5G will operate across many bands"

Not in the US, where there is not enough free spectrum to do 5G below 6 Ghz.

Suppose you want to do 5g below 6 Ghz in the US, you would need 600 Mhz of additional band for three remaining carriers, 200 Mhz each. Everyone knows such wide band spectrum isn't simply available. The only place they are available is China and Japan. Europe doesn't have it and this is why they are monkeying with 15 Ghz, the highest frequency you can go without the active electrical beam steering antenna.

Yes, things might be different in other regions, but as far as the US is concerned, 28/39 Ghz is the only way to go.

"Verizon may be one powerful ally, but Samsung needs much more than that."

In the US, you can do 5G only in 28 Ghz and 39 Ghz, unless you are Sprint. Samsung is the only vendor able to supply equipment functioning US 5G specturm in the near future. That's the picture Verizon got after having tested equipment from all major vendors.

"Verizon will, obviously, hedge it's bets. It's a practical company."

Verizon appears to be going all in on 28 Ghz.
Gabriel Brown 6/27/2016 | 7:15:50 AM
Re: New 5G development from Verizon and Qualcomm TV Monitor -- it is widely accepted that 5G will operate across many bands (yes, including 28 GHz). Presenting it as some kind of binary choice between Samsung and non-Samsung developed technolgies is wrong and tiresome.

One could argue that Samsung is in a fight for its life in standards. It would do better to seek allies and collaborate more. Otherwise it's the WiBro > WiMax > LTE story all over again. Verizon may be one powerful ally, but Samsung needs much more than that.

Verizon will, obviously, hedge it's bets. It's a practical company.
TV Monitor 6/26/2016 | 11:00:22 PM
New 5G development from Verizon and Qualcomm http://www.phonearena.com/news/Verizon-wants-to-develop-standards-for-5G-signs-deal-with-KT-to-speed-up-commercialization_id82611

Verizon has officially gone with Samsung 5G.


Qualcomm is unveiling 5G NR, a 5G system that operates entirely below 6 Ghz like Chinese 5G.
DanJones 6/24/2016 | 11:52:48 AM
Re: Modules Winstron modules.
jayakd0 6/24/2016 | 11:50:57 AM
current IoT cionnections? heard in a recent LR Upskill U podcast, AT&T has close to 25 million IoT connections currently. Do you know which sub technologies in 2G and 3G thease are spread out?
wustlBear 6/23/2016 | 6:04:36 PM
Modules Any idea whose CAT-M1 module they have certified? I didn't think any were on the market. Thanks. 
komatineni 6/23/2016 | 2:18:09 PM
Re: Wait and watch Indeed it will be. IMHO its going to drag a bit longer and some 'big' folks refusing to upgrade the CPE / sensors. But it is the same issue for any change. So end of the day I guess its going to be a business call
DanJones 6/23/2016 | 2:08:57 PM
Re: Wait and watch Going to be interesting getting M2M customers off the 2G networks and onto LTE. 2G will sunset by the end of 2017. Can it all be done in time?
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