U.S. Cellular says that it has launched its LTE-M network on 90% of its cell sites. The other 10% will be launched during the second quarter of the year.
LTE-M is one approach to networking the almost countless number of IoT devices that service providers must support. The technology supports low power or battery-limited devices that are less complex, cost less and are built for IoT applications. This makes LTE-M a good option for and deployments in urban and rural settings and hard-to-reach environments, U.S. Cellular says.
“Our LTE-M network brings our business and government customers capabilities and features that will enable an entirely new set of use cases to help them improve their operations and grow their business,” Jim Anetsberger, U.S. Cellular’s vice president of business sales, said in a press release. “We want to set our IoT customers up for future success with solutions that are designed to meet their specific needs. Working together with our vendors and customers, we can unleash the potential of our LTE-M network.”
The carrier says that it is continuing to add features and capabilities to its LTE-M network. So far, it supports four modules: The Telit ME910C1-WW and ME910C1-NA, the Quectel BG96 and the u-blox SARA-R410M. More are expected to be added.
The success of the IoT will depend on the ability to manage and secure millions or even billions of small devices in an agile and flexible manner. Low power is a key as well, due to cost and accessibility issues.
Good examples of the type of services that will be made possible by the IoT – and must be supported by carriers – are smart farming and agriculture. In September 2018, U.S. Cellular said that it would launch several smart agriculture services in a partnership with Internet of Things America. Initial services of the cloud-based initiative were to be asset tracking and tank monitoring. Agriculture and livestock management also were possibilities.
In 2018 U.S. Cellular reported its IoT service was set to use CDMA and LTE, which would in some cases be complemented by low bandwidth LoRa.