AT&T Expands LTE-M Across North America
AT&T now provides LTE-M coverage across the US and has completed software upgrades to its LTE network in Mexico to support deployment of Mexico’s first LTE-M network and first North American LTE-M footprint. AT&T has deployed LTE-M within LTE Bands 2, 4, and 12 (1900MHz, 1700MHz and 700MHz spectrum) in the US, and Band 4 (1700MHz) in Mexico. AT&T has demonstrated LTE-M roaming between its networks in the US and Mexico. AT&T has found that LTE-M introduces benefits that historically traditional cellular IoT services could not address, primarily, extended battery life, improved coverage and lower costs. These benefits are opening up new use cases for customers that were once solely connected via Wi-Fi.
The commercial proposition
AT&T is offering customers both traditional data-driven pricing models and new innovative pricing models that are unique to LTE-M. These include simple, all-in pricing models where the device, SIM, data, and self-service API interfaces are bundled into a single low upfront price for the life of the device.
As well as providing LTE-M solutions to enterprise customers, AT&T is serving the developer and small business markets. The AT&T LTE-M Button is designed to enable customers to initiate services or order simply by pressing the button. AT&T plans to offer the LTE-M Button initially for $29.99, inclusive of the device, SIM card and three years of data or 1,500 clicks. As LTE-M is a low power technology, the button’s battery will last for several years. Buyers can also employ enterprise service management via the AT&T Control Center and API interface.
AT&T’s vendor also introduced LTE-M modules for as low as $7.50 a piece in 2017 – half the price of the LTE Cat-1 module AT&T launched with its supplier in 2016. The LTE-M modules have a much smaller form factor than conventional cellular modules. AT&T has certified several LTE-M chipsets and modules, and these are now available from a broad range of suppliers. As well as providing connectivity, AT&T offers its Internet of Things customers application development tools and cloud data storage software that can help manage the data captured by connected devices, as well as asset management and tracking applications.
AT&T is seeing strong demand for LTE-M from the asset tracking industry and from water companies looking for low cost smart metering and leak detection solutions. The automotive industry is considering adding LTE-M to vehicles to enable remote diagnostics capabilities, while the security industry is expected to adopt the technology to connect alarm panels and other sensors. In 2018, AT&T plans to add support for Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) to its LTE-M networks, which will enable a security monitoring company, for example, to use the LTE-M connectivity to establish a voice connection between an alarm panel and a dispatcher.
AT&T believes there is a pent-up demand for solutions that work straight out of the box and which bundle the cost of the connectivity into the up-front cost of the device. In fact, AT&T regards LTE-M as a compelling, simple and easy alternative to Wi-Fi for smart home solutions that don’t need a high-speed connection. The AT&T LTE-M Button is the first step into simple and easy Wi-Fi alternatives. Smart appliances, asset tags, water leak detection are just some of the existing solutions that rely solely on Wi-Fi that will evolve to utilize LTE-M. No more access point pairing and access codes. It just works out of the box.