November 3, 2016 — AT&T turned on an LTE-M-enabled commercial site in the San Francisco market last week to support its low-power wide-area network pilot, “starting a process that will transform the Internet of Things (IoT) for years to come.” AT&T plans to make the technology commercially available in 2017.
The pilot will include solutions from Altair, Ericsson, Qualcomm Technologies, Sierra Wireless, Telit, u-blox, Wistron NeWeb, and Xirgo Technologies. The technology is expected to be available to customers outside of the pilot starting in 2017.
“We’ve joined with Altair, Ericsson and technology leaders from across the ecosystem to launch the first LTE-M enabled commercial site in North America,” said Chris Penrose, president, internet of things solutions, AT&T. “Innovations like LTE-M will bring IoT to more end points than ever before. It’s part of our strategy to offer the widest range of IoT network options to our customers.”
LTE-M will combine enhanced coverage and longer battery life (up to 10 years) with carrier-grade security for a variety of IoT solutions, including smart utility meters, asset monitoring, vending machines, alarm systems, fleet, heavy equipment, mHealth and wearables, according to the company.
LTE-M will lower the costs for modules to connect IoT devices to the LTE network and provide coverage for IoT devices underground and deep inside buildings.
Other participants in the pilot will include: Badger Meter smart water devices, CalAmp connected vehicles and assets, Capstone Metering underground smart water meters, PepsiCo smart vending and Samsung wearables or other consumer devices.
November 3, 2016 —
Hmmm… I must have missed that. Where was I when the IoT or the internet of anything/everything (IoX), as I prefer to call it, arrived?
As I have discussed in the past, I think that coming up with marginal, fringe or incremental technologies and calling them the IoX, or 5G or Smart-X is bad business. Nokia, for example, likes to say they have almost 5G technologies, which is fine, and they give them almost monikers such a 4.5G and 4.9G. but at least they don’t call them 5G, of which there are still no real standards. The same with the IoX.
So why does AT&T say that the IoX is here? Because it has decided that LTE-M (Nokia has an LTE-M solution as well), is the new IoX standard?
In today’s competitive world, market spin is everything. Some companies, especially carriers, have a lot at stake with 5G and the IoX. If they don’t keep their momentum up, with all the emerging technologies, platforms and players, they could easily lose what momentum they have built up.
AT&T’s claim that the IoX is here is based upon the fact that there are many technologies, both currently available and emerging, that will be implemented in the IoX. Some of these include MMwave, various renditions of Wi-Fi, cellular, satellite, low power WANs, small cells and more. Inevitably these will all be part of the IoX. So AT&T is doing its usual thing, just stretching the truth a bit (which it so often does) and hedging its IoX position.
So why LTE-M. Well, LTE-M is a derivation of LTE, specifically for machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. It is a fully LTE-compliant platform, just less of one. Essentially it is a simpler LTE platform with optimized operational efficiency. It offers a simplified LTE chipset, to minimize costs. It also is a low-power technology that allows batteries to last 10+ years.
It offers a better coverage factor than LTE because it utilizes multiple technologies such as power boosting of data and reference signals when necessary, repetition/retransmission, and relaxing performance requirements (such as longer acquisition times or higher error rates). It also offers security and supports complex use cases. And it leverages existing LTE networks so AT&T can use it on their cellular frequencies (as opposed to unlicensed technologies – ah now I get it).
LTE-M is just another one of the many technologies we will see as part of the IoX. claiming it is the IoX is a bit of a stretch. Come on AT&T, we all know better.
September 13, 2016 –
Qualcomm and AT&T will test drones on commercial LTE networks in an effort to analyze how they can operate safely and more securely, it was announced during last week’s CTIA Super Mobility Week.
The team will look at coverage, signal, strength and mobility across network cells as well as how the drones function in flight. The goal of the trials and ongoing research is to help enable future drone operations, such as Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS), when regulations allow. The ability permit to fly beyond an operator’s visual range could enable successful delivery, remote inspection and exploration. Wireless technology can bring many advantages to drones such as ubiquitous coverage, high-speed mobile support, security, reliability and quality of service.
“Not only do we aim to analyze wide-scalable LTE optimization for safe, legal commercial small unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS) use cases with beyond line-of-sight connectivity, but the results can help inform positive developments in drone regulations and 5G specifications as they pertain to wide-scale deployment of numerous drone use cases.” said Matt Grob, executive vice president and chief technology officer, Qualcomm Technologies.
Back in February, AT&T and Intel agreed to do many of the same tests that AT&T will be executing with Qualcomm. The AT&T Internet of Things team and the AT&T Foundry innovation center in Palo Alto, Calif., will be working with Intel to evaluate performance of the LTE network at higher altitudes to see how it affects video streaming, transmitting telematics and flight information.
“Connecting drones over the network will help address many challenges the category faces, including safety and security concerns, real time communications, potential interference with manned aircraft and supporting future capabilities (such as beyond line of sight), as they are approved by the FAA,” the carrier said in a press release.
August 25, 2016 —
For a couple of years now I have been advocating that the macro cell tower industry is set to decline. I have even been ridiculed by some with a heavy investment in this space. But I am not the only one, and others who feel likewise are analysts and research players – until now. This is the first time I have seen it from a carrier. And this carrier is one of the top players in the biz – AT&T.
Tom Keathley SVP of AT&T’s wireless network architecture and design now seems to think so, as well. He has indicated that AT&T has formed an internal task force to develop alternatives to the traditional cell tower space-rental business model. Keathley said tower companies’ current business practices “may not be sustainable.”
And he isn’t the only one from that segment. T-Mobile’s SVP of technology, Dave Mayo, recently offered similar oratory at the Wireless Infrastructure Association conference. He said that the infrastructure segment is ripe for disruption as the industry moves toward 5G. Mayo said that the current model “is too complicated, it’s not sustainable.” Mayo indicates that there needs to be “industrialization” of the infrastructure market.
One of the big issues is that the costs are simply becoming too high. The current model is built on costs per megabyte, but the future is going to be cost per gigabyte, and current tower models cannot scale to that. Complaints about tower rental fees and contracts have risen so much in recent months that tower company executives are constantly addressing investor queries about the issue.
But that is the most visible issue. A bigger issue is that the future is going to be made up of a number of alternative networks. And with 5G, and the Internet of Anything, new frequencies up in the mmwave spectrum cannot be supported by macrocells. And, not just networks, technologies as well. A while back Qualcomm had said it has a chip that will fit into mobile devices and has all the capabilities of a cell tower, effectively making any such device a portable cell tower. Now, of course, mobile devices will never have the power, flexibility, and capacity of a tower, but these new networks may not need that if there are enough devices on the networks and the power needs are low enough.
Consider that future networks — 5G, IoX, HetNets, etc — will move much of the communications to higher frequencies – from 5 GHz to as high as 120 GHz, as of now. And, it is likely that, a bit further in the evolution, even higher frequencies will be used. And, then there is the edge, where as much as 70 percent of all communications will be, according to some experts. None of this can be handled by the current cell tower model.
How this will all shake out is still a bit uncertain, and the tower business model isn’t going anywhere soon. But there are cracks showing up. We will just have to wait to see what chunks fall off.
August 18, 2016 — Like Verizon, AT&T is also working with several global technology companies and operators on 5G. The efforts are in preparation for the release of the official 3GPP specifications which will form the basis of the global standards.
The goal is to enable faster 5G deployment once 3GPP completes the first release of the official specifications. An official technology standard makes the roll-out experience smoother which will help businesses and consumers get 5G technology even faster.
“We’re joining other tech leaders to find and resolve key standards issues early and bring 5G to market sooner,” said Tom Keathley, senior vice president- wireless network architecture and design, AT&T. “Interim and fragmented pre-standard specifications can distract from the ultimate goal. Linking trials to the standards process is the fastest path to large-scale global 5G deployment.”
AT&T hopes to collaborate with a broad set of industry participants. Preliminary discussions are underway with China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, KDDI, LG, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Qualcomm Technologies, Samsung, SK Telecom, Telstra and Vodafone.
In 5G trials, AT&T is accelerating over-the-air interoperability testing based on standards developed under the 3GPP New Radio (NR) specifications. The trials are designed to easily evolve with future versions of the official 5G standards, a milestone 3GPP targets for 2018.