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Sprint announces IoT network launch

Sprint said it will launch an LTE Category 1 network within the next three months, and will follow up with Category M1 technology deployed throughout its network by the middle of next year. LTE Category 1, which is part of 3GPP Release 8, caps download speeds at 10 megabits per second and caps upload speeds at 5 megabits per second. Category M1, part of Release 13, caps both speeds at 1 megabit per second. Since Category M1 uses much less bandwidth than Category 1, the IoT endpoints that use this protocol are smaller and less expensive, and can run for longer on a single battery.

Sprint said it is the world’s seventh largest provider of IoT devices. The carrier said IoT devices that support vehicle telematics and industrial applications will use Category 1 LTE, while industrial sensors, asset trackers, and wearables will use Category M1.

In addition, Sprint plans to deploy narrowband IoT across its network next year. NB-IoT uses even less bandwidth than Cat M1, but it may require hardware upgrades to the network, whereas the LTE protocols for IoT can usually be deployed through software upgrades. NB-IoT network equipment is made by Ericsson and by Huawei.

Sprint will be working with Ericsson to deploy Cat M1 next year. Ericsson has a network management contract with the carrier, and is also supplying IoT network equipment for Sprint parent SoftBank.

“Ericsson looks forward to partnering with Sprint to deploy Cat M1 next year and bring the transformative power of IoT to the Sprint nationwide network,” said Glenn Laxdal, head of network products for Ericsson North America. “As one of the leading enablers and solution providers of the internet of things, Ericsson believes in its power to transform industries and capture new growth.”

Mohamad Nasser, general manager of Sprint’s IoT business unit, said that “IoT, along with wireless and wireline, is one of the three critical business lines for the Sprint business portfolio.”

Sprint’s IoT network news follows similar announcements from Verizon Wireless and AT&T. Verizon launched a nationwide Cat M1 network March 31, and AT&T has said it is deploying the technology throughout its network during the second quarter of this year.

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