Jul 31, 2017

An NB-IoT First for North America – But What will it Change?

Last week, and with considerable fanfare, T-Mobile announced completing the trial of North America’s first NB-IoT network. This in contrast to AT&T and Verizon’s strategy for an initial CAT-M1 rollout, to be followed by NB1 at a later date.

While this has justifiably caused initial excitement, to what extent will it truly affect the IoT market, both domestically or abroad?

  • This trial is an exciting NB-IoT first for the United States, which could catalyze the implementation of narrowband-specific applications, including smart utility metering and environmental monitoring. Nevertheless, operators in other countries – primarily China and Korea – have already been providing the significant driving force for an NB1 ecosystem, and will continue to do so, driven by Huawei.
  • This may not alter the rollout of M1 and NB1 networks in other countries, a number of which – primarily Asian and European – have already started with NB1. However, when the narrowband ecosystem does eventually gain global coverage to include North America, we can expect to see other operators with their own NB1 networks up and running before long.
  • It is a popular assumption that NB1 will enable IoT services requiring significantly less power consumption. However, in many scenarios with high data rates and lower latency, CAT-M1 will have a shorter transmission time and thus lower overall power consumption than NB1.
  • Perhaps most significant are the opportunities this could provide by opening the market further for Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) who can offer cross-US coverage on any Cellular IoT network. It will also increase the value of dual mode M1/NB1 devices designed for global coverage. Such devices, able to support both technologies at no additional cost, will enable manufacturers and providers to offer a wider range of IoT services to a larger target market.

Regardless of whether one advocates for rolling out CAT-M1 or NB1 first, the major takeaway here is that the global IoT market is moving inexorably forward with all major providers acknowledging and striving towards the next generation of Cellular IoT.