FROM THE BLOG

Verizon And AT&T Are Taking A Pass On NB-IoT

In a move that should shock no-one who follows movements in LPWAN technologies, Verizon announced they are deploying LoRa and apparently have no plan to deploy NB-IoT:

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), which launched the country’s first national LTE-M service in March, said it’s embracing LoRaWAN unlicensed technology for building overall solutions for some customers. That surprised attendees at the show, given Verizon’s emphasis on LTE-M as a system that uses cellular infrastructure with its security quality-of-service mechanisms.

And just confirming what we already knew, AT&T is sticking with high-power LTE CAT M1 as it while it gently gives NB-IoT the tap-tap to the back of the head:

“Though it is testing NB-IoT, AT&T hasn’t found a differentiator that would justify offering it alongside LTE-M, Allen said. Advantages to LTE-M include a higher data rate and the ability to carry voice calls.”

If it worked as originally promised, there would be plenty to differentiate NB-IoT from CAT M1, which remains very high power and high priced.

So, this leaves #4 carrier T-Mobile as the only carrier claiming to be actively pursuing NB-IoT in the US.

Combining these carrier defections wtih the weak performance of NB-IoT in mobile environments and it’s safe to say end users should be getting comfortable with crossing NB-IoT off their list of prospective LPWAN technologies in the U.S. market. It is worth continuing to watch the technology for fixed meter reading applications in markets like China where Huawei is aggressively pushing the technology. But the Verizon/AT&T news amounts to a big win for Semtech and with recent news from SigFox, the LPWAN field may be clearing faster than expected.

This is also critical information for “un-carrier” types like Comcast and a few startups building out LoRa-based public networks. For them, differentiation just became a matter of do-or-die.

A huge swath of the LPWAN market opportunity — mobile use cases — remains almost entirely unsolved (and unsolvable) by LoRaWAN. If you are being pitched by a sales guy from a telco or other LPWAN network provider, ask how they are solving for low power mobile applications. The network that can provide you with high precision, real-time location and sensing in combination with multi-year battery life is the one to pay most attention. For more thoughts, look here.

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