U.S. mobile carriers will offer specialised Internet of things (IoT) services in a big way next year. Some of the motivation is competitive, the result of pressure from companies using unlicensed spectrum, but it seems to be mostly the result of new technology protocols for the LTE standard that support IoT applications and, critically, business cases.
Verizon announced its plans for full, nationwide deployment of a key IoT standard by April 2017 at the Telit IoT Innovation conference in Las Vegas yesterday. Erik Varney, senior manager of IoT consulting at Verizon Wireless, said that their network will be upgraded to support the LTE category M1 protocol, which supports low bandwidth applications running on low power equipment, on licensed spectrum. As the table above shows, the M1 standard falls midway between the conventional LTE standard and the more aggressive LTE NB1 (for narrow band) which is optimised for fixed, very low power IoT devices for applications with very low bandwidth needs.
One question yet to be fully answered is how much will it cost? During audience Q&A, Varney said that Verizon is becoming more flexible and moving away from traditional mobile phone data plans, but more work is needed on the network side too: pricing models are, to a degree, a function of a network designed to support high priority, high priority communications on demand – 911 calls, for example – but IoT applications often involve intermittent, non-time sensitive transmission of a few bytes of data.
Ken Bednasz, vice president of application engineering at Telit (and the guy who presented the table above), pointed to 2018 as the time frame for IoT-optimised protocols, which were released earlier this year, to be in full, mass market deployment in the U.S. Cat M1 technology will come first and NB1-based systems, which he described as being better suited to new market segments, following.