Verizon rolls out commercial LTE-M across the US
Verizon has launched commercial LTE-M services across the US market, providing low power wide area connectivity over an area of 2.4 million square miles. Verizon was able to adapt its extensive LTE network to support LTE-M simply by upgrading the software in its existing base stations.
As LTE-M can lower the cost of connectivity significantly, Verizon believes the technology will open up major opportunities to expand the reach and effectiveness of the Internet of Things (IoT). The operator expects LTE-M, which has been standardised by 3GPP, to replace the 2G connectivity employed by some existing IoT applications, such as usage-based insurance, vehicle monitoring and asset tracking, as well as enabling new sensor-based applications, such as monitoring agriculture and smart parking. As well as enabling new kinds of connected consumer appliances and wearables, Verizon envisages that LTE-M will expand the smart metering market.
For example, Verizon is working with water metering technology provider Neptune Technology Group to harness LTE-M to deliver a robust, scalable and secure connectivity platform to help water utility companies reduce costs and accelerate sustainability efforts. Neptune has chosen Qualcomm Technologies’ MDM9206 LTE modem to bring long range, reliable connectivity (up to 300kbps throughput) to battery-powered water and gas smart meters at a low price point.
By April 2017, Verizon had certified LTE-M modules or chipsets from Sequans, Telit, U-Blox, Sierra Wireless, Gemalto, Qualcomm, and Altair, together with devices from Encore Networks, Link Labs, and NimbeLink. It expects to certify products from further suppliers as 2017 progresses.
As many IoT solutions require only low bandwidth, Verizon has developed low cost, multi-year tariff plans that reflect the potentially long lifetime of LTE-M connected devices. The operator believes it can economically offer LTE-M on data plans for just US$2 per month per device, with customized options available for bulk activations and volume purchases.
Accelerating application development and deployment
To support the rollout of LTE-M solutions, Verizon has created a virtualized cloud environment that is designed to enable rapid and agile IoT solution deployment and nationwide scaling. Moreover, Verizon’s web-based ThingSpace platform and ThingSpace client is designed to enable seamless and secure development, management and deployment of IoT solutions. Approximately 14,000 developers are using the platform today, which is underpinned by a growing range of application programming interfaces (APIs) and agreements to support connectivity in more than 175 countries. The ThingSpace client is pre-loaded on LTE-M chipsets produced by Verizon’s partners to make it quick and easy for a device to connect securely to the operator’s LTE-M network.
As developers create new applications, Verizon expects usage of LTE-M to ramp-up quickly. By transforming the economics of connectivity and lowering the barriers to market entry, Verizon is aiming to scale the IoT from millions to billions of connected devices.