top of page

AT&T takes its own path to the IoT

Higher bandwidth LTE-M may be better for video

by Martha DeGrasse


AT&T is the only major U.S. carrier that hasn't announced plans to deploy narrowband IoT, the lowest cost cellular alternative for internet of things applications. The other carriers all say they will deploy NB-IoT alongside LTE-M, which offers higher bandwidth at a slightly higher price point. For now, AT&T is focused on LTE-M. 


"We’re committed to our LTE-M network and driving adoption in the U.S. and Mexico. We continue to assess the market for NB-IoT and will pursue it if we feel it offers an advantage to our customers over LTE-M," the carrier said in early February 2018.


AT&T's decision to focus on LTE-M may be related to the way its customers are using the internet of things. The carrier has said that the killer IoT app is the camera, and is now using LTE-M to support inexpensive camera sensors.


"Camera images and video images really can replace a lot of IoT devices," said Craig Lee, AT&T's IoT Foundry lead. "One example would be trash bins using an IoT solution with a relatively inexpensive camera sensing element and LTE-M backhaul.  Then the cloud software renders out the fill level. That information can be pulled back into software that makes a route for the [garbage truck] driver."


Lee said healthcare and manufacturing are two other areas in which AT&T sees robust demand for its LTE-M solutions. Like NB-IoT, LTE-M enables direct communication between sensors and the radio access network, without the added expense of a cellular gateway to aggregate data traffic.


"These solutions talk directly to the cell tower," said Lee. "Cat-M (LTE-M) allows for range extension where you can error correct, and it happens automatically between tower and device."

AT&T's Craig Lee demos connected trash bin 



The internet of things is not a new market, and it's not just one market, according to the analysts at Mobile Experts. The team has spent the past several years studying the top vertical markets for IoT services, including the automotive industry, the power industry and healthcare. In addition, Mobile Experts has spent time with companies in the many horizontal segments of this market: those providing connectivity and data analysis for the internet of things. The firm concludes that while there are currently more than 65 competing IoT technologies, the market will consolidate around roughly 20 of these.  


Mobile Experts interviewed semiconductor companies, service providers, and corporate end users to compile its detailed IoT device shipment forecast . This report forecasts IoT device shipments for all the major connectivity technologies, including Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LTE, 5G, GSM, NB-IoT, PLC, LPWA, RFID, satellite, and proprietary RF. 

bottom of page