AT&T Will Have LTE CAT-M in “Majority” of Network by Mid-Year

LAS VEGAS—A top AT&T executive said the company will have LTE CAT-M (also known at LTE-M or CAT-M1) available commercially in the majority of its network by mid-year. AT&T has been trialing LTE CAT-M technology for low power Internet of Things (IoT) applications in the San Francisco area since October.

Speaking at the AT&T Developer Summit here, Cameron Coursey, vice president of product development for AT&T’s Internet of Things, said the company is planning to roll out the technology as quickly as possible. AT&T will have it available in the majority of its network in the first and second quarter of the year and nationwide by year-end.

Coursey also revealed some of the partners working with AT&T on the San Francisco LTE CAT-M trial including Pepsi, Samsung, Capstone Metering, Badger Meter, CalAMP, and Rm2. He also said that the operator’s tech partners include Ericsson, Qualcomm, Sierra Wireless, Telit, Telular, uBlox, and Altair Semiconductor.

One partner, Capstone Metering, provided some details of its experience with LTE CAT-M. Capstone Metering CEO Scott Williamson said that by using it, the company was able to monitor water meters to detect potential failures, water quality issues, leaks, and pressure problems. “We need the network and the bandwidth to monitor water meters and save money,” Williamson said.

Global Support for LTE CAT-M

According to Carlos Bosch, senior technology director of the GSMA, a global wireless trade group, there are 27 network operators globally that have said they will support LTE CAT-M, and 24 vendors are making gear.

AT&T competitor Verizon said at year-end that it had CAT-M live in limited markets and was on track to have the technology available nationwide by the end of the first quarter. It has also completed testing on three LTE CAT-M devices and has certified Link Labs’ CAT-M1 Sensor Suite. Link Labs powers IoT applications for a number of industries including agriculture, smart cities, healthcare, and retail.

Analyst firm ABI has predicted that LTE CAT-M technology will see strong growth in 2018 and onward as network operators become more aggressive in their deployments. Operators like Japan’s SoftBank and Korea’s SK Telecom have both said they will initially deploy low-power networks (LoRa), which are non-cellular and use unlicensed spectrum in 2016 and 2017 and then deploy narrowband-IoT and LTE CAT-M later.

AT&T’s IoT Stats

At AT&T’s Developer Summit the company also revealed that as of third quarter 2016, it had more than 30 million connected devices on its network.