AT&T Launches U.S. LTE-M Network for Industrial IoT

The telecom deployed its nationwide LTE-M network May 18; it is designed to join others in enabling new-generation IoT devices, applications and services.

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We’re seeing a growing list of internet of things platforms come into play for industrial and/or for general consumer use. GE has its industrial-IoT Predix, Microsoft has Windows IoT Core, and C3 IoT has an ahead-of-the-curve platform that is already at work in about 25 major global corporations.

Now AT&T has joined the group, deploying its nationwide LTE-M network on May 18. The network is designed to join others in enabling new-generation IoT devices, applications and services.

The acronym LTE-M stands for Long Term Evolution-M, which is the machine-to-machine (M2M) version of high-speed cellular LTE. LTE-M is a very low-power wide-area network in which device batteries often can last for up to 10 years and can be augmented by solar power.

Runs on AT&T's 4G LTE Network

The LTE-M network is now live across the U.S. on AT&T’s 4G LTE network. The deployment represents another step forward on the huge company’s roadmap to 5G and massive IoT connectivity. The network is deployed with global, 3GPP (Third Generation Partnership Project) standardized technology using licensed spectrum for carrier-grade security.

AT&T turned on its first IoT node site last October at its San Francisco area location.

“The use cases for this type of network can be surprising,” David Allen, AT&T Director of IoT Solutions, told eWEEK. “We all know about connected homes for lighting, temperature, security and so on, but think for a minute about a connected trash can at, say, a park. When the can gets full, it sends off a trigger--just a couple of bits of data--back to the backend office that says ‘Hey, I’m full,’ and ‘Pick me up.’”

Another unexpected use case is the idea of connected industrial pallets. That’s correct: There’s already a company, RM2, that has made this their area of expertise and is producing shipping pallets made of rugged plastic that contain embedded chips that can monitor location, weight of the products piled on top, weather conditions and other factors, Allen said.

Getting Ready to Deploy into Mexico This Year

AT&T already has plans to deploy LTE-M across Mexico by the end of 2017 to create a North American LTE-M footprint covering 400 million people, the company said.

AT&T also launched a full new suite of rate plans with LTE-M, with monthly plans starting at $1.50 per month per device. Further discounts will be available for yearly and multi-year plans, as well as volume commitments. LTE-M modules will be available from AT&T’s supplier for as low as $7.50 each, which includes a SIM card. That’s half the cost of the LTE Cat-1 module AT&T introduced in 2016.

AT&T has made available IoT starter kits with M14A2A modules that will be software-upgradeable to LTE-M with an upcoming firmware update. The M14A2A is an LTE-only module that operates at Category 1, which allows for a maximum downlink data rate of 10 Mbps and maximum uplink of 5 Mbps.

Allen listed some advantages of LTE-M over traditional IoT connectivity options, which include:

  • longer battery life (expected up to 10 years);
  • better coverage for IoT devices underground and deep inside buildings; and
  • reduced module size (as small as 1/6 the size of current modules).

LTE-M modules and connectivity also can be used for large-scale IoT deployments such as smart city services, smart metering, asset tracking, supply chain management, security and alarm monitoring and personal wearables, Allen said.

For more information about AT&T IoT services and support, go here.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he has...