T-Mobile will only use LTE M for its planned Internet of Things applications in "cases that make sense," according to Karri Kuoppamaki, the company's Vice President of Network Technology Development and Strategy. While speaking at the latest iteration of the FierceWireless Next-Gen Wireless Networks Summit, Mr. Kuoppamaki suggested that T-Mobile's IoT strategy still largely relies on NB-IoT, a different wireless standard that the company will employ more widely on a national level. The Cat-M network will be built alongside the NB-IoT one next year, though no more specific time frames have yet been attached to either deployment project by the third largest mobile service provider in the United States.
T-Mobile's shift to IoT-specific IoT networks has been in the making for a while now and isn't exclusive to the Bellevue, Washington-based company, with both Verizon and AT&T previously making similar commitments in the segment. Sprint is expected to start deploying its own LTE M network in mid-2018, according to the firm's previous statements on the matter. It's still unclear how wide will T-Mobile's LTE M rollout be, with Mr. Kuoppamaki highlighting the technology's voice call support as its main advantage over NB-IoT. Both cellular protocols are ultimately aiming to serve the same product segment, though only LTE M uses the LTE band, hence its name. NB-IoT is still believed to be a more inexpensive option between the two because despite higher deployment costs, the fact that it doesn't require a gateway between the carrier's main server and IoT sensors allows it to be cheaper to maintain. Qualcomm, Ericsson, and a number of other telecom giants around the world have been committing significant resources to NB-IoT commercialization in recent years, and it appears that T-Mobile agrees this technology is the way to move forward as far as nationwide IoT network deployment is concerned.
Ultimately, both technologies can be used in conjunction with existing LTE infrastructure, allowing them to mostly be deployed via software upgrades and making them an attractive proposition for all major wireless carriers in the country. T-Mobile's other ongoing network efforts involve the deployment of its 600MHz network, as well as nationwide commercialization of 5G that the company is planning to complete in 2020.