T-Mobile Claims NB-IoT First in the US

T-Mobile says it is the first major mobile operator in the US to complete a trial -- around Las Vegas -- of narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) LTE technology, which uses low-power connectivity to enable long-term machine-to-machine (M2M) projects, such as smart sensors.

T-Mobile US Inc. says it worked with Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) on the live tests on its commercial network in Las Vegas. "Narrowband IoT is no longer a thing of the distant future -- T-Mobile is lighting it up this year!" said Neville Ray, T-Mobile's CTO, in a statement.

Traditional LTE connections are not suitable for applications that require devices with a multi-year battery life because the connection uses too much power. NB-IoT cuts the data rate to 120 Kbit/s, or lower, and can be deployed in a very small spectrum channel, compared with channels of between 5MHz to 20MHz -- and sometimes more -- in which 4G is typically deployed.

T-Mobile says it used a 20KHz channel for its tests.

The NB-IoT tests -- and forthcoming launch -- should allow T-Mobile to offer IoT services that use even less power than the Cat M LTE IoT network recently launched by rival AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) Cat M lowers LTE data rates to about 1 Mbit/s to reduce power consumption, making that technology more suitable for devices that can be connected to a power supply instead of run on batteries. T-Mobile also offers customers Cat M modules for IoT. (See AT&T Settles on LTE for Cellular IoT.)

Although it was wasn't specifically mentioned by T-Mobile, an NB-IoT launch should also allow it to start moving IoT customers off 2G networks. The operator has previously said that it will offer "extended 2G network operations to support customer transitions to LTE through 2020." (See T-Mobile US Bundles Up for IoT.)

In addition, T-Mobile announced a partnership with Las Vegas to deploy IoT technology, including NB-IoT, throughout the city. According to the operator this will include:

  • Flood abatement: Flood and storm drainage sensors will provide early warning and fault detection for Las Vegas residents.
  • Smart city lighting: T-Mobile will power the City's LED lighting within a single compact device.
  • Environmental monitoring: Sensors placed on top of existing smart city light poles will continuously monitor temperature, humidity and environmental gases.

    The adoption by T-Mobile of NB-IoT is another sign that the licensed specification is gaining acceptance by more carriers around the globe, despite some initial concerns about chipset pricing and standardization. (See NB-IoT Interoperability a Problem, but It's Being Fixed – Sequans CEO and DT, Chinese Operators Take NB-IoT to Market.)

    — Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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