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AT&T Buckles Down to Deploy NB-IoT in 2019

Dan Jones
6/20/2018
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AT&T now says it will deploy Narrow Band-IoT (NB-IoT) to support extremely low-power LTE machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, after extensive testing -- and some whiffling -- on the 4G specification.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) said Wednesday that it plans to launch NB-IoT on its network in the US early in 2019, with Mexico following later in the year. The upgrade will be implemented via a software upgrade on the network.

AT&T initially launched another low-power LTE specification -- LTE-M -- for Internet of Things (IoT) applications in the US and Mexico through 2017 (See AT&T Settles on LTE for Cellular IoT and AT&T Pushes Cat M LTE for Cellular IoT in the Americas.)

AT&T, at the time, suggested that it would likely just use the Cat-M for IoT initially. "We'll continue to evaluate our options," Troiano said of the Narrowband IoT version of LTE in September 2017, while explaining that AT&T was "very comfortable" with [LTE] Cat M as a technology.

Now, the operator plans to run both Cat-M and NB-IoT on its network, with Cat-M supporting applications like voice-over-LTE (VoLTE), which NB-IoT can't (yet, anyway). (See AT&T Launches Multi-Network Connect for IoT.)

NB-IoT is attractive to operators because it offers a very low-power connection over licensed spectrum, which is achieved by drastically cutting the connection speed and bandwidth required by the LTE connection to 200-Kbit/s in 180KHz of spectrum.

AT&T will be one of the last major US mobile operators to go commercial with NB-IoT. T-Mobile US Inc. launched its first commercial market in Las Vegas in October 2017. Verizon Wireless says it will go commercial this year. (See T-Mobile Rolls Out $6-a-Year NB-IoT Plan and Verizon Boards the NB-IoT Train.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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