T-Mobile US launches NB-IoT network

T-Mobile US is laying claim to a narrowband Internet of Things first, with the official launch of a new narrowband IoT network that operates in guard bands. The carrier said that its service is the first NB-IoT network in the U.S. and the first one in the world that leverages guard bands, which are narrow slices of unused spectrum meant to separate frequency ranges and prevent interference.

“By lighting up NB-IoT in the guard bands – the network equivalent of driving down the shoulders on the highway – T-Mobile can utilise precious spectrum resources most efficiently, and IoT applications don’t have to compete with other data traffic for network resources,” the carrier said in its announcement.

Verizon has said that it plans to launch an NB-IoT network by the end of this year; the operator already offers LTE-M services. Last month, AT&T said that it plans to launch an NB-IoT network in the U.S. in early 2019 and Mexico in late 2019, to complement its existing LTE-M networks in those countries.

T-Mobile US tested NB-IoT last year and announced aggressive pricing for the service earlier this year, offering NB-IoT connectivity at $6 (€5.14) per device for a year, for up to 12 MB of data. T-Mo said that it worked with vendors Ericsson, Nokia and Qualcomm Technologies to deploy the NB-IoT network, and that it already has several Qualcomm NB-IoT modules certified for use on the newly available network.

When AT&T outlined its NB-IoT plans last month, it talked about deploying NB-IoT through software upgrades and said that both its LTE-M and NB-IoT services “will operate alongside our 4G LTE network and within our mobile 5G network.” AT&T is planning for 5G launches in parts of Dallas and Waco, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia later this year.

In its recent State of Mobile 2018 report, CTIA said that in the first quarter of 2018, 90% of operators’ new net additions came from areas like connected cars and IoT. CTIA said that connections for “data-only devices,” which it considered IoT devices, grew 19.5% from 2016 to 2017.

The GSMA published a report in May on IoT and said that NB-IoT and LTE-M “will be fundamental to the development of massive IoT and in supporting and complementing 5G’s myriad use cases and applications.” According to the GSMA, two dozen mobile operators around the world have commercially launched 48 mobile IoT networks using either NB-IoT or LTE-M.

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