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IoT dominates carrier announcements at MWCA

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T-Mobile promises first nationwide NB-IoT network, AT&T adds new platform and customers, Verizon predicts B2B growth

SAN FRANCISCO – U.S. wireless carriers focused on the internet of things during the first part of Mobile World Congress Americas, the inaugural event produced by GSMA in partnership with CTIA. AT&T and T-Mobile US both shared updates on their IoT plans on the eve of the show, while Verizon issued its annual state of the internet of things report, including predictions for the months ahead. Sprint led with network infrastructure news instead of IoT news, and the company’s COO for technology said he expects Sprint’s new antennas to support large numbers of IoT devices.

AT&T said smart manufacturing and supply chain logistics are primary use cases for its new asset management solution, created in partnership with Microsoft. The companies want to help customers combine the AT&T network with Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and AT&T’s Flow Designer software. Mike Troiano, VP for AT&T’s IoT business, said Microsoft and AT&T will both market the new solution to enterprise, with the goal of helping them streamline deployment and management of IoT assets.

Troiano also said several enterprise customers are already using AT&T’s LTE Category M1 network, which the carrier activated via a network software upgrade earlier this year. Now AT&T is expanding M1 to Mexico, with the goal of rolling out the technology on its Mexican network next year. The carrier’s goal is to enable seamless international connectivity with one SIM card for IoT devices used in the U.S. and Mexico.

Finally, AT&T announced two new IoT enterprise customers. Mobike will use AT&T’s 4G network to bring smart bikes to cities in the U.S., and McPherson Oil will use the 4G network for tank monitoring.

While many IoT applications still rely on 4G, 3G, or 2G networks, U.S. carriers expect to see a number of these migrate to the less expensive low-power wide area cellular network technologies: LTE Cat 1, LTE Cat M1, and narrowband IoT (NB-IoT). These technologies will also make IoT applications affordable for many businesses that never considered them before.

T-Mobile US seems to see NB-IoT as the most promising IoT network technology. The “un-carrier” said this week that it will roll out the first nationwide NB-IoT network in the U.S. in 2018. The company plans to launch the first commercial NB-IoT network in North America next month in Las Vegas.

NB-IoT is the least expensive, lowest power cellular standard, and it does not support mobility. It is seen as a direct competitor to IoT in unlicensed spectrum (i.e. LoRa), and it’s a good fit for T-Mobile’s value-focused marketing campaigns. The company quietly added that it will also launch LTE Cat M next year, a move that AT&T and Verizon made this year.

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