& cplSiteName &

The Wait for NB-IoT in the US

Dan Jones

Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) LTE is taking its time finding market take-up in the US.

The low power wide area network (LPWA) technology was first launched nationwide in the US by T-Mobile on July 19, 2018. AT&T followed with a nationwide launch on April 29, 2019, with Verizon bringing up the rear with a launch on May 14, 2019. Sprint hasn't yet launched an NB-IoT network, sticking with its LTE-M network service for IoT.

NB-IoT can be used for applications such as asset tracking or trash management. The NB-IoT services in the US all use the guard bands -- narrow bands between LTE main communications channels -- of the operators' existing licensed LTE networks, so as not to interfere with consumer smartphone traffic. NB-IoT operates at download speeds of 100 to 250-kbit/s in bandwidth of up to 200KHz with a battery life of more than ten years.

Complementary 3GPP standard Cat M LTE, in contrast, operates in a bandwidth of 1.4MHz with a download speed of 1-Mbit/s. Unlike NB-IoT, Cat M supports voice calls. Both NB-IoT and Cat M can "sleep" to reduce power usage. Devices using the Cat M protocol can also be mobile on the network, as opposed to items like sensors that can only be deployed as stationary devices on NB-IoT networks.

NB-IoT's main advantage is its low power requirements and ability to reach devices in dense or underground building environments.

T-Mobile has made the most early progress with its NB-IoT service so far. It has started selling its first nationwide asset tracking system, Roambee BeeAware, on NB-IoT. Sensoneo has started a trash management system in California, Colorado, and Ohio. While T-Mobile says that startup Ossia is leveraging NB-IoT in the company's wireless power tracker testing in Wal-Mart's procurement centers, we don't yet know how the network technology will be used.

AT&T has been largely silent on NB-IoT so far. "We have some things in the works, but nothing I can share publicly yet," an AT&T spokesperson told us in early September. The carrier hasn't updated its overall NB-IoT situation since then.

AT&T certified its first NB-IoT module -- the Telit ME910C1 -- on June 19 this year. It certified a LTE-M/NB-IoT chipset from Murata/Altair earlier this month.

Verizon has been testing NB-IoT modules from Quectel, SIM-COM and Telit on its network. When asked about customers, a Verizon spokesperson says that Verizon doesn't release information about customers on its network. "That info is proprietary," she says.

Market view
"It's true that NB-IoT had a later start in the US than in Europe and China," says Steve Bell, senior analyst at Heavy Reading. China Mobile and China Unicom started launching NB-IoT in Asia in the second quarter of 2017. Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone also started deploying NB-IoT in continental Europe in 2017.

AT&T and Verizon had initially focused on LTE-M launches in the US in the second quarter of 2017. Bell suggests that this "was a deliberate strategy for both AT&T and Verizon, who focused on LTE-M initially because of the mobility and higher data rates."

Sprint has so of far only launched Cat M in the US.

The GSA says that 101 operators worldwide have now deployed or launched NB-IoT networks worldwide. In contrast, 41 operators have launched or deployed Cat M networks.

By 2026, cellular NB-IoT and Cat M connections will capture over 60% of the 3.6 billion LPWA network connections, according to ABI Research. Non-cellular LPWA connections, like LoRaWAN and Sigfox, will account for around 40% of the connections in 2026.

Related posts:

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Related Stories
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Featured Video
Upcoming Live Events
December 3-5, 2019, Vienna, Austria
December 3, 2019, New York, New York
March 16-18, 2020, Embassy Suites, Denver, Colorado
May 18-20, 2020, Irving Convention Center, Dallas, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Partner Perspectives - content from our sponsors
How China's 5G Launch Will Gear Up the Global 5G Industry
By Daisy Zhu, Head of Marketing Operations, Huawei Wireless Network
5G Business Case Revisited
By Hayim Porat, CTO, ECI
All Partner Perspectives