Verizon today announced the commercial availability of its narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) network, reaching nearly nationwide coverage two weeks after AT&T launched its own NB-IoT network. The operator’s starting price of $1 per month is more than double the starting rate of AT&T’s offering, but Verizon says the 50 kilobits of data included in that monthly access fee can be shared with other NB-IoT devices.
Like AT&T, Verizon’s NB-IoT network runs on its LTE network and is suited for fixed applications requiring data rates below 100 Kb/s. Verizon says its NB-IoT network, which covers 92% of the U.S. population, is operating on a dedicated frequency of 180 kilohertz bandwidth that does not share spectrum with commercial smartphone traffic.
“Narrowband’s kind of that next evolution of a technology that our customers are asking for to meet some of the use cases that they have to continue to scale towards 5G and massive IoT,” Steve Szabo, head of global products and services on Verizon’s IoT business, told SDxCentral in a phone interview.
“It’s more of a semi-static use case” for smart cities, metering, connected appliances, vending machines, and alarm panels, Szabo explained. These devices are “less intensive on the network” and boast longer battery life to reduce maintenance costs and management, he added.
“We have strong plays in the utility and the smart community space, as well as manufacturing and industrial solutions, so this continues to open up the door for us to drive scale in those aspects of the business,” Szabo said. He expects strong early adoption in the utility space, smart manufacturing, and building automation and management.
Verizon’s NB-IoT network will also interact with LTE or 5G, depending on the customers’ needs, according to Szabo. “When you talk narrowband you start really getting into massive IoT. I view LTE as an on-ramp into the 5G space,” he said. Greater sensor density and the ability to transmit high amounts of data will require a 5G network, but less intensive applications will work on LTE, Szabo explained.
“In a 5G world you’re collecting data from tens of thousands of sensors potentially if you’re a business and if you want to really be able to leverage the benefits of that data for predictive maintenance and automation, [artificial intelligence and machine learning], you’re going to need a 5G network to be able to not only process the amount of data that’s incoming but also take advantage of the data in real time,” he said.
At least 114 operators have launched commercial IoT networks using NB-IoT or LTE-M technology as of this month, according to GSMA. The international wireless association expects 1.9 billion LTE-M and NB-IoT connections by 2025.