AT&T Announces LTE-M Pilot, IoT Data Plans

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While everybody is racing to get their 5G networks ready and provide record-breaking mobile internet speeds to millions of users in applicable markets, one race that's just as important in the long run is getting a bit less attention; the race to win over the burgeoning IoT market. One of the many IoT standards that carriers can use to approach that market is LTE-M, a standard that promises good battery life for connected devices, low data usage, and good coverage, all made possible through repurposed high-band spectrum. AT&T announced on Wednesday that they are rolling out a pilot program of their own LTE-M network, with special plans for IoT developers and users. The pilot is set to take place with only a limited stable of partners in the IoT field for now, with a wider rollout likely happening at a later date, should the pilot go well.

The partners for the pilot each have a set of goals for their participation. Samsung is on board to look into customer-facing LTE-M solutions, such as with wearables, while PepsiCo is looking into networking its vending machines and using sensors with them. Capstone Metering, meanwhile, is working on improving functionality and battery life for smart city applications, while CalAmp is working on LTE-based solutions for business fleet and asset management. Badger Meter caps off the pilot tester list, with a focus on applications to handle water treatment and supply better. Hardware partners for LTE-M include Altair, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Sierra Wireless, u-blox, Xirgo Technologies, and Wistron NeWeb Corp.

AT&T also announced special data plans made just for IoT developers, though the plans could also be useful to everyday users, should they only want to power IoT devices or want to keep them on a separate network or separate bill from their normal mobile or internet devices. The special plans will be available later this month, and consist of a small amount of data, with access allowed for a long period of time. Developers can throw up to 1,000 devices on a single plan. The options on offer are $25 for 1GB and 500 SMS messages over 12 months, 3GB and 1,000 messages over 12 months for $60, or 5GB and 1,500 SMS for 24 months, which will run the user $100. This comes on the heels of the reveal of a special IoT starter kit back in August. Presumably, once the LTE-M network launches, these plans will use it instead of AT&T's standard LTE network.

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