Making good on a promise, Verizon says it is rolling out wireless Internet of things (IoT) service nationally. During the CTIA show in Las Vegas last year, a Verizon representative said that the LTE M1 standard would be deployed throughout its U.S. network by April. Verizon beat that deadline by a day, saying in a press release that as of yesterday, it was launching…
The first nationwide commercial 4G LTE Category M1 (or Cat M1) network, which spans 2.4 million square miles. This is the first and only Cat M1 network providing scale, coverage and security for customers seeking wireless access solutions for IoT. Verizon’s Cat M1 network is built on a virtualized cloud environment which enables rapid and agile IoT solution deployment and nationwide scaling aimed at increasing IoT adoption for developers and businesses with new and more economical IoT data plans.
Service pricing starts at $2 for 200 KB per month, and scales up to $80 for 10 GB. IoT – also known as machine-to-machine or M2M – applications can be very parsimonious with bandwidth, so the low end package could be enough to support basic functionality for, say, an environmental monitor or on/off control for remote devices such as security lights or a heating/cooling system.
LTE M1 technology is a cut down version of regular LTE. The next rev will be the LTE NB1 standard – NB as in narrow band – which will be aimed at the ultra low power, ultra low bandwidth end of the market that’s currently targeted by the LoRa and Sigfox systems.
M1 equipment needs to be plugged in or recharged relatively frequently, ultra low power/bandwidth devices are designed to run off a small battery for a year or more. Both standards will find uses. For example, it might make perfect sense to pay $2 a month to control an electric irrigation pump with an always-available M1 connection, but the thousand or so soil and temperature sensors scattered around a field that support that pump can get by with much cheaper occasional 12 byte bursts, the kind of payloads that the ultra-low systems can deliver.
NB1 deployments could begin this year, but are more likely to go mainstream in 2018.
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.
The event will shift to the second week after Labor Day, which presumably will get it out from under Apple’s shadow – as in the past, CEO Tim Cook’s fall announcements, which are usually mobile-focused, will happen right smack in the middle of CTIA’s opening keynote session. Which is just as well – the line up of speakers is sadly diminished from years gone by, when the top executives from U.S. mobile carriers were regularly featured. This year, it’s strictly second bananas on the keynote stage.
FCC luminaries aside, the policy focus is shining on cities. Several panel sessions will be devoted to figuring out how to work with communities, or at least get them to go along with plans to deploy dense 5G networks in the coming decade. A lot of the talk will center on the smart city concept, which should involve creating layers of virtual, open source data-driven infrastructure, but too often is just about repackaging existing products and services for the municipal market. Even so, I’m hoping to find new applications and architectures.
The Internet of Things is also getting a lot of attention, although it seems to be as much, if not more, more from parallel events than from the main CTIA show. On Tuesday, I’ll be going to the Telit IoT Innovation conference, which should be a good, general update on the state of IoT, if they’ve kept the information to sales pitch ratio at a manageable level.