AT&T decides LTE-M is the standard for cellular IoT

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With the many IoT devices set to come online in the next few years, AT&T has decided the LTE-M standard will be the future of its cellular IoT network. 

IoT devices are generally low-power and don’t require much bandwidth to run individually, but the sheer number of them will present challenges for carriers to handle traffic if they’re not prepared. The current LTE-M standard, Cat-M1, is designed to sustain a 1Mbps connection whilst keeping battery consumption low. 

The LTE-M technology will use AT&T’s existing spectrum which helps to ensure that it’s secure and manageable through existing infrastructure. Instead of adopting other Low-Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) specifications, AT&T decided to standardise on the LTE stack as opposed to using such unlicensed bands. 

AT&T claims there are “many reasons” it made the decision to standardise the LTE stack but the most notable is that it makes it much simpler for developers and OEMs to maximise operational efficiency. 

For devices which use even less power than your standard IoT device – such as smoke detectors – AT&T will use the Cat-M2 ‘Narrowband-IoT’ standard. The standard is still being finalised but should feature speeds in the kilobits-per-second to ensure the longest possible battery life. 

Despite its focus on LTE-M for cellular IoT, AT&T is aware “we’re living in a multi-network world” and will support other types of networks where required for IoT such as WiFi, Bluetooth, and mesh networks. 

Do you think AT&T is making the sensible decision? Let us know in the comments.

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