AT&T is still reluctant about adopting Narrowband IoT and is the only national carrier in the United States that hasn't announced any specific plans to deploy such a network going forward, with the company still prioritizing LTE-M for its upcoming Internet of Things push. Earlier this month, the second largest mobile service provider in the country confirmed it's constantly re-evaluating NB-IoT and is prepared to embrace the technology if it finds a significant portion of its customers prefer it over LTE-M in certain use cases.
AT&T has apparently yet to reach such a conclusion as it remains silent on any concrete NB-IoT plans. While LTE-M can rival NB-IoT in nearly every aspect and surpasses it technologically in terms of offering support for video streaming, in addition to being compatible with existing 4G LTE networks, NB-IoT is touted as a less expensive option for streamlined IoT applications as it doesn't require gateways and should hence yield lower maintenance costs, even though its upfront install fees are higher due to the fact that it operates outside of the LTE band. Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint are planning to deploy both NB-IoT and LTE-M networks going forward, advertising them for different use cases, though AT&T remains fully committed to the technologically superior platform, partially because it touts camera sensors as one of the main selling points of IoT in general and such solutions effectively cannot be powered by any NB-IoT network due to their higher bandwidth requirements. Manufacturing and healthcare are both likely to exhibit extremely high levels of demand for LTE-M, making AT&T keen to target them with its future offerings that should be more expensive than their NB-IoT counterparts, both in terms of maintenance and customer fees.
The two services are widely expected to coexist once deployed on a national level, whereas the IoT segment in general is likely to experience a major boost with the deployment of the fifth generation of mobile networks that should start in the U.S. in late 2018. Even though AT&T's interest in NB-IoT presently appears to be minimal, its streamlined focus may allow it to become the first wireless carrier in the country to unlock the full technological and revenue potential of LTE-M, some industry watchers believe.