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AT&T Turns on NB-IoT Network Across Nation

By Chris Penrose


Last year, we said that we would launch our NarrowBand Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network in the U.S. by spring.  I’m proud to announce today that our nationwide NB-IoT network is live!

The upgrades at our 4G LTE cell sites across the country are now complete and our NB-IoT network is open for business. This new network will help unlock the next wave of IoT connections. And it’s a big step toward massive IoT and 5G.

More Choices for Business

With NB-IoT, we now have two complementary Low-Power Wide Area networks – including  our LTE-M network in the U.S. and Mexico. Both networks are designed for the IoT within licensed spectrum and provide carrier-grade security.

The devices that ride on these networks can be configured to go dormant when not in use. That opens a host of uses that don’t need constant cellular connections. Think of things like utility meters, leak detectors, street lights and smart appliances.

Having both networks offers our business customers more options to implement IoT solutions with security, interoperability, and lower costs.

NB-IoT is optimized for stationary use cases with basic data requirements like simple sensors, on-off buttons, smart agriculture, smoke detectors, door locks and industrial monitors.

LTE-M, with its greater bandwidth, can support firmware and software updates, mobility and voice-over services. We’ve deployed pet trackers, asset management, medical wearables, utility meters and more over LTE-M.

Both networks connect devices “out of the box” without the complexity of setting up Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. And they reach deep inside buildings and underground.

The big advantages are cost and energy savings. Imagine not needing to replace or charge batteries for up to 10 years and modules the size of a penny.

Take Bodyport for Example

Bodyport, based in San Francisco, uses our LTE-M network to connect a smart scale that transmits patients’ cardiovascular data to remote care teams in near real-time.  This moves medical care from reactive to predictive and hospital to home.

“The network has a very low power consumption for a cellular technology, which enables a long battery life in our devices,” says Corey Centen, CEO and Founder. “The wide indoor penetration enables the scales to connect easily even when they are tucked away deep in an interior bathroom.”

We’re also helping our customers keep their costs in check.

My team is working with our suppliers to certify $5 modules that connect devices to NB-IoT. Multi-mode modules that support both NB-IoT and LTE-M are not far behind. We currently offer pricing plans for as low as $5/year/device.

All of this puts the IoT within reach for businesses who, until now, may not have even thought that connectivity solutions were possible for them.

On the Path to 5G

5G will no doubt enable smart cities, connected agriculture, water management, construction, you name it, in exciting ways we have not seen.

But there’s no need for businesses to wait for 5G to move forward with an IoT solution.

NB-IoT and LTE-M are ready today and designed to support the most common IoT applications. We expect them to be included later this year within global standards for massive IoT for 5G.

Starting now, they have the potential to change the world, opening the door to use cases and applications that weren’t practical or possible before.

We’re Spurring IoT Innovation

NB-IoT and LTE-M are laying the groundwork for these new IoT solutions.

We’re opening up NB-IoT and LTE-M to developers through a collaboration with Arrow Electronics and the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. With software entrepreneur Ray Ozzie, we’re developing  Notecard, an integrated IoT module that easily connects IoT products to the cloud with prepaid connectivity.

And our LTE-M Button offers our customers endless possibilities to save time, money and boost customer convenience and satisfaction at the click of a button.

Going Global

True global access will be a pillar of massive IoT.

We expect to begin deployment of NB-IoT in Mexico later this year. This will be the start of a unique North American footprint as we build out our global capabilities.

According to GSMA, 110 LTE-M and NB-IoT commercial networks have been launched globally. GSMA Intelligence forecasts that there will be 1.9 billion LTE-M and NB-IoT cellular IoT connections by 2025.

The new era of global IoT is unfolding.  Now is the time for businesses to seize this opportunity.

Chris Penrose is President – IoT Solutions at AT&T Business.


AT&T 5G Network Passes 2 Gigabit Speeds

By Gordon Mansfield

Pushing limits is exactly what a 5G world is all about. Today, another mobile 5G speed milestone was achieved when we hit peak speeds surpassing 2 gigabits per second on our live, commercial 5G network in Atlanta using the NETGEAR® Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot. We’re the first carrier in the U.S. to reach this speed, and just like last month’s record smashing through the 1 gigabit mark, this also was outside the lab in the real world.

Sustained speeds like this would be equivalent to downloading a 2-hour HD movie in 10 seconds –blazing fast in any environment. Of course, reaching 5G’s ultimate potential is a journey and these milestones represent just part of the exciting moments in building a 5G world. It started commercially with our 2018 launch as the first carrier to make mobile 5G a reality in the U.S. and we continue leading the race in revolutionizing how we live, work and play.

We’re all about finding ways to unleash the full potential of 5G, including celebrating the exciting milestones along the journey.

Gordon Mansfield is Vice President, Converged Access and Device Technology, at AT&T

















Does AT&T Live in the Real World?

By Ernest Worthman, AWT Executive Editor and IEEE Senior Member

A few days ago, AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson said that China is not beating the United States on 5G — yet. According to Stephenson, Chinese 5G networks remain in trial stages, he said at an event hosted by the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. This, perhaps, to allay the hand-wringing from the Trump administration, and policymakers, about America’s ability to compete with China in the 5G space.

However, a few days before that, China announced that The Hongqiao Railway Station in Shanghai China, one of Asia’s biggest traffic hubs, has launched a 5G network using Huawei’s 5G digital indoor system that will allow passengers to experience data speeds, up to, 100 times faster compared to LTE. Hmmm… we must not be reading the same news bytes or drinking the same Kool-Aid.

There is some interesting reading in all of this.

AT&T claims to have 5G up and running in dozen markets. However, it seems like an empty claim without phones. To be fair, China does not have any phones either. So, will the winner of the 5G race be the one who has phones first? That could be another one of the many bogus claims to have won the 5G race.

Essentially, without handsets, systems are just taking up space, here, there, anywhere. Stephenson claiming we are ahead, behind, even, whatever, is really just smack talk against China.

What makes all of this even worse is AT&T’s claims to have been the first in 5G late last year. It was a hollow victory, if it was a victory at all. As well, they tried to pass off some chicanery in 4G as 5G (5GE and 5G+). At this point, I have a hard time believing anything they say as being other than embellishment. This latest statement by Stephenson takes even more credibility away.

Why does this matter? Because this is one of the big problems facing the wireless industry, today, and why so many consumers are unaffected by 5G. Misstatements, embellishments, ignorant statements, or even outright lies make it that much harder to buy into the technology and its benefits. A chief executive should know better.

There are warning signs about all this that are beginning to bubble up. However, it seems that the companies on the edge of wireless do not believe the signs or are just pushing ahead for fear of losing momentum.  Lately, there has been noise around companies taking a hard look at their outlays for 5G in light of some of the economic data that has surfaced.

For example, while only one segment of 5G, smartphones are seeing some serious speedbumps, relatively speaking. 2018 saw, for the first time, negative growth in smartphones. Granted, the percentage was small, but the implications are huge. As well, the introduction of the over $1000 phones did not receive the warm welcome that was predicted.

There are other signs, as well. Sluggish government action to provide the necessary framework to advance 5G as quickly as some deem necessary, particularly at the local levels where permits are often slow in coming.

Then there is the indoor deployment segment. Carriers and others still have no real methodology to deploy indoor 5G networks that can meet the needs of users in crowded, high-density areas where thousands of people, simultaneously, want to use the network.

Sports venues have provided some data for such environments but that may, or may not, play forward to 5G networks without hiccups. The theory is there, but the use cases have yet to be implemented. Moreover, as one knows, all too well, there is that adage, which says anything that can go wrong, will.

Next, take the U.S.’s stance on Huawei. It has failed in its attempts to derail Huawei, worldwide. Just today, across the Atlantic, Andrus Ansip, European Commissioner for Digital Single Market, is suggesting the Commission resist an outright ban across the bloc.

For the United States, this is pretty much the worst-case scenario. Our political influence and economic power has been undermined and the United States’ belief in its own influence has clearly been over-estimated. That is just another nail in the U.S. Huawei-ban coffin.

Whether we like it or not, Huawei is the leading company producing the necessary 5G network components. The U.S. government’s ban does not bode well for unimpeded 5G progress here, even with other vendors stepping in to fill the void.

Since nobody else is on board with the Huawei ban, they are all moving forward without being hamstrung, widening the 5G gap between the United States and the rest of the world. I have discussed the Huawei situation in past missives so I will not go into it here.

Now, circling back to the types of statements made by industry leaders. The fact is that 5G is far from a done deal, anywhere. There are chinks in the armor. It is fraught with trials and tribulations – some technical, some economic, some political, some geographic, some financial, some perceived, and some imagined. Pile on top of that the huge pool of embellishment, almost truths, wishful thinking, Kool-Aid drinking, and the cold, hard truth is that we have a long hard road ahead before we can breathe a sigh of relief and 5G hits its stride.

Statements like those by Stephenson are, IMHO, just embarrassing.

AT&T’s FirstNet Build Months Ahead of Schedule

Less than a year into the official Band 14 build, AT&T has added more than 50,000+ square miles to the nationwide LTE network footprint of FirstNet. AT&T and FirstNet are months ahead of schedule with already meeting 40 percent of the total rural and urban coverage targets the end of this year. The capacity of the network has been increase by 50 percent since the end of 2017 while simultaneously laying the foundation for a 5G future.

The added LTE coverage is a result of the ongoing network build initiatives to expand and enhance connectivity for consumers and first responders in both urban and rural areas on both indoor and outdoor sites.

Some examples of rural areas that are underway and currently benefitting from the network build include: the Black Hills of South Dakota, where nearly half a million people gather for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the farming communities of Tulare County, California, and tribal lands within the Chickasaw Nation in south-central Oklahoma.

In areas where coverage already exists, FirstNet is making sure first responders have the capacity they need to get the job done without interruption. Now, urban and suburban centers in markets like Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, among others, are getting a Band 14 boost.

In total, AT&T and FirstNet have deployed Band 14 spectrum in more than 500 markets further increasing the platform’s coverage and capacity across the country. The deployment touches 425,000 subscribers, which is a 60 percent increase in the number of subscribers since the end of October 2018, spanning more than 5,250 public safety agencies on FirstNet to date.

5G Bragging Rights? Perhaps, But Not Much Else

By Ernest Worthman, AWT Executive Editor and IEEE Senior Member

In one of my recent columns I had questioned what the prize would be for being the “first” with 5G. I had noted that being first had no real prize that comes with it, other than, perhaps, bragging rights.

Well, it seems that just happened. The last couple of weeks has been rich in media hype around AT&T’s end of the year launch of their 5G services. According to one media source, on the 21st of December AT&T will become the first telco, in America, to cross the finish line. And win the “prize.” AT&T claims to have a mobile 5G service over a commercial, standards-based mobile 5G network.

From another media site, outside of wireless, the following was penned “Bragging rights are important. AT&T will now, and until the end of time, be the first mobile 5G network in the United States.” But about all it can do is put that on billboards and in marketing promos. There is nothing attached to it that can be taken to the bank.

In reality, this is a marginal network spanning only 100 MHz channels. It uses the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot. It is only available within AT&T’s coverage areas and is a tiny coverage bubble. In AT&T’s own words the “initial launch starts small and will be limited,” but that “customers will see enhancements in coverage, speeds, and devices.”

If you think I am hard on the 5G hype, you should read what Toms Guide, a tech rag that I have read for years, said about it. While they are not in the wireless space, per se, they are a pretty savvy computer technology group. Their headline was “Carrier peddles fake 5G. AT&T Plans to Put 5G Labels On Non-5G Phones.” Well, butter my rump and call me a biscuit. Talk about saying it like it is!

This takes its place along “5G E”, another sleight of hand 5G label, which is being rolled out by them, as well. 5G E leverages 4G LTE advanced capabilities to emulate near 5G with technological upgrades such as carrier aggregation, 4 x 4 MIMO, LAA, and 256-QAM. While these enhancements do improve network performance and meet some of the 5G specs, this platform is not fully 5G.

Furthermore, it seems they taking embellishment to the max in the cities where they are launching 5G service platforms. It is replacing some 4G phones’ on-screen “LTE” indicators with “5G E” logos — a marketing ploy to, further, blur the lines between 4G and 5G service for customers.

This is an interesting approach. One has to beg the question, if 5G E, and similar fake 5G offerings from other carriers, work well, might they be shooting themselves in the foot? What if the end user is happy with this level of performance? Perhaps, when the real 5G is up and running, they may not be all that eager to jump on the platform.

While it MAY be the first “5G” network, it reminds me of my engineering days when we were under pressure to develop something against a set of specs and get it out there, no matter how marginal the product was. This network is simply an experiment that barely meets the 5G designation. To differentiate the service at mmWave, AT&T has added a “+” to the 5G – 5G+ is what it will be designated. That is also where the Netgear 5G Mobile Hotspot will operate.

One can argue that it has to start somewhere. I am all in on that. What I am not all in on is the ridiculous hype that surrounds it. I would have much more respect for these carriers if they came out and said it like it is. In this situation, the AT&T service is, simply, a limited initial 5G jump off service as a first step with no phones. Does that really qualify as a first?

One thing worth mentioning is the pricing philosophy. Unlike what many manufacturers do when they release a new generation or line and use premium pricing, for this network it is approaching it as a loss-leader with realistic up-front pricing. That is the smart approach, considering the unproven benefits for the time being.

For a few months it will be free. Then the buzz is that, in early 2019, list price for the hotspot will be $499. 15 GB of 5G data will cost $70 per month. There is no price yet for phones or other add-on services. Undoubtedly, there will be some uber-geeks, those with more money than sense, and the bragging rights community that will purchase this service. But for the rest of us, it is a “meh.”

What I am hoping now is that, as 2018 draws to a close, the claim of 5G being live has been made and the bragging rights awarded. Whew, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The 2018 claim has been staked. Let us hope 2019 pulls back on the hype, and other the craziness, and we can all get down to the business getting 5G out there, practically and reliably.

Happy new year, everyone! And wishing you all the best for 2019!