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AT&T claims nationwide US IoT network, but it’s only LTE-M

AT&T LTE-M

US operator AT&T has hitched its IoT wagon to LTE-M, it seems, after announcing the completion of its nationwide LTE-M network ahead of schedule.

The launch comes a few weeks after rival operator Verizon claimed a similar feat for the low-power WAN technology also referred to as LTE Cat M1. Both operators are positioning LTE-M as a big deal in the context of IoT but many other global operators see NB-IoT as the real end goal.

This could be another example of US operators seeking to create the appearance of being closer to commercialising a major new tech category as early as possible. AT&T recently tried this with its ‘5G Evolution’ announcement and it could be that both companies are bigging up LTE-M in spite of their likely eventual preference for NB-IoT.

“Our nationwide LTE-M deployment is another example of AT&T’s continued investment and leadership in IoT,” said Chris Penrose, President, IoT Solutions, AT&T. “We can now reach new places and connect new things at a price that’s more affordable than ever before. Our LTE-M starter kit will also spur developers to open the doors to IoT innovation.”

Among the claims AT&T made on behalf of LTE-M are up-to ten-year battery life, better coverage, reduced module size, support for stuff like smart cities and other IoT cunning plans. This may well be the case but NB-IoT is expected to do all of that better than LTE-M so it’s hard to view it as anything other than an interim technology.

Nonetheless AT&T will be launching a bunch of LTE-M-based rate plans starting at $1.50 per month per device. That might not seem much but across the anticipated zillions of IoT devices expected to appear before long it will coon add up. Another advantage of NB-IoT is expected to be significantly lower costs, which is likely to be a deal breaker.

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