American carrier AT&T has announced that it will deploy a NarrowBand Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network in the United States and Mexico come next year. The disclosure was made several months after reports first emerged that the network operator is re-evaluating its stance on the Low-Power Wide-Area (LPWA) technology. The carrier stated that it will launch its NB-IoT network in the United States starting in early 2019, while it will roll out the technology across Mexico by the end of the same year.
AT&T already launched its LTE-M network across the United States and Mexico last year. Both NB-IoT and LTE-M technologies offer longer device battery life, wider coverage, and lower overall costs compared to traditional LTE connectivity, and these two technologies work on licensed frequencies, which reduces the risk of interference from other devices. However, AT&T first focused on LTE-M since it offers reduced latency and higher bandwidth compared to NB-IoT. The LTE-M technology allowed the carrier's LPWA network to support camera sensors, deliver firmware and software updates, and offer Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE). Despite its initial focus on LTE-M, the carrier said last February that it will launch its NB-IoT network once a significant portion of its subscribers start asking for the technology over LTE-M. With the deployment of NB-IoT, the carrier stated that its existing LTE-M network will now focus on use cases that require more bandwidth, while the NB-IoT ecosystem will be directed toward applications with less demanding data connectivity requirements, including static sensors. Moreover, NB-IoT has lower maintenance costs than LTE-M, although this comes at the expense of higher installation costs.
Similar to how LTE-M was rolled out by AT&T, NB-IoT will be deployed in both the United States and Mexico through software upgrades to the carrier's cell sites. The technology will work alongside both existing 4G LTE networks and mobile 5G networks that will soon be rolled out across the United States. Aside from AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint have already announced plans to deploy NB-IoT across their respective networks as well. Verizon previously stated that its NB-IoT network will cover 2.56 million square miles by the end of 2018, while T-Mobile has already launched its first NB-IoT network plan, priced at $6 per year.