The company says that software upgrades at its 4G LTE cell sites across the country are now complete and that its NB-IoT network is now open for business. The new network, says the company, will help unlock the next wave of IoT connections, and is “a big step toward massive IoT and 5G.”
With NB-IoT, the company now has two complementary Low-Power Wide Area networks – including its LTE-M network in the U.S. and Mexico. Both networks are designed for the IoT within licensed spectrum and provide carrier-grade security.
“The devices that ride on these networks can be configured to go dormant when not in use,” says Chris Penrose, Senior Vice President of AT&T’s IoT organization. “That opens a host of uses that don’t need constant cellular connections. Think of things like utility meters, leak detectors, street lights and smart appliances.”
NB-IoT is optimized for stationary use cases with basic data requirements like simple sensors, on-off buttons, smart agriculture, smoke detectors, door locks and industrial monitors. LTE-M, with its greater bandwidth, can support firmware and software updates, mobility and voice-over services.
“We’ve deployed pet trackers, asset management, medical wearables, utility meters and more over LTE-M,” says Penrose. “Both networks connect devices ‘out of the box’ without the complexity of setting up Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. And they reach deep inside buildings and underground.”
The big advantages, says the company, are cost and energy savings. The company is working with its suppliers to certify $5 modules that connect devices to NB-IoT, and says multi-mode modules that support both NB-IoT and LTE-M are not far behind. Current pricing plans are available for as low as $5/year/device.
“All of this,” says Penrose, “puts the IoT within reach for businesses who, until now, may not have even thought that connectivity solutions were possible for them.”
The company says it’s opening up NB-IoT and LTE-M to developers through a collaboration with Arrow Electronics and the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. With cellular IoT startup Blues Wireless, it’s developing Notecard, an integrated IoT module that easily connects IoT products to the cloud with prepaid connectivity.
The company says it expects to begin deployment of NB-IoT in Mexico later this year.
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