The operator deployed the network in guard bands, which is the unused portion of wireless spectrum between licensed radio bands.
T-Mobile first tested the NB-IoT technology a year ago in Las Vegas. At that time, the company said it was using equipment from Qualcomm and Ericsson. Earlier this year it announced that it would deploy the technology nationwide by mid-year and said it will build a nationwide LTE-M network after the NB-IoT network is complete.
NB-IoT is different from LTE-M IoT technology because NB-IoT is a separate network, typically operating in the guard band. Both technologies are part of the 3GPP standard and use licensed spectrum. LTE-M can support speeds up to 386 kb/s while NB-IoT supports speeds of 100 kb/s or slower.
Verizon and AT&T both have nationwide LTE-M networks for IoT and both operators have said they will build nationwide NB-IoT networks as well. Verizon said its NB-IoT network will be available this year. AT&T said it will launch its NB-IoT network in 2019. Sprint, meanwhile, is in the midst of building a nationwide LTE-M network that it plans to have complete by year-end.
T-Mobile also debuted a partner program it’s calling Connect. The partner program is open to software and hardware developers and will provide them with the chance to collaborate on products and services targeting enterprises and government users. Connect will also certify end-user devices on T-Mobile’s NB-IoT network.
Earlier this year, T-Mobile announced an NB-IoT rate plan of $6 per year for up to 12 megabytes of data per connected device. The company also said it was making NB-IoT modules available for $5 per module.
T-Mobile’s Connect program isn’t unique. All operators have some sort of support program to encourage collaboration around IoT. AT&T has an IoT marketplace where developers can build their own IoT solutions and Sprint has its IoT Factory, an online market where businesses can get ready-made IoT solutions.