Telecom IoT Investments Are Short Sighted

This week U.S. telecom giant AT&T announced it’s rolling out their LTE Cat-M1 network for network enterprise IoT and smart city implementation. Verizon beat them to market last year with the same technology. But while this has the potential to connect millions of low-power IoT devices, our latest blog post explains that’s not really the future of IoT.

Companies like AT&T and Verizon are smart for jumping on the IoT bandwagon. It’s one of the hottest ‘buzzwords’ in the world right now because of it’s far reaching implementations across smart cities, smart homes, self-driving cars, robots and more. 

What AT&T has done is created an LTE Cat-M1 network for low-power IoT devices. This network is going to play well with enterprises who want to take advantage of IoT with the use things like tracking sensors and RFID tags for their assets or devices. It’s also going to be perfect for smart city devices that will track things that don’t require a ton of data — like when trash cans are full, or street parking availability. 

AT&T’s second advantage here is that their new network is built off of existing infrastructure, so, it’s not an entirely new low-power wide area network. This means it’s less labor-intensive, costs less and the $1.50 cost per device per month (plus the cost of modules) means there are actual savings that can drip down to consumers from the enterprises or governments that pay for this tech. 

As Mobile World points out, this is a multi-billion dollar business for telcos who have already jumped on board, like AT&T and Verizon. The network used for these IoT devices is estimated to be 5-10 percent of the entire $1.5 trillion market. 

But, there’s just one problem: this is not really the future of IoT — it’s more like the now. It’s as if the telcos are dipping their toe in the ocean of opportunity that is the Internet of Things. The future of IoT is sophisticated self-driving cars, robots and smart-home devices that transmit tons of data every second.

Now, that’s not to say that smart-city tech and IoT connectivity is chump-change. This kind of IoT is being positively implemented in cities around the word and continues to grow year over year.  But this market is going to get a whole lot bigger when sophisticated IoT is introduced into modern life. 

For example, we can examine IoT and smart cars. Eventually, the wrinkles in the technology are going to get ironed out, proper legislation will be put in place and everyone will be cruising in self-driving smart cars. But will the networks to support them be in place? As our CEO pointed out in a recent blog post, right now they’re nowhere close to ready, “…the mobile networks we use now were built and designed for voice. Over time, we’ve upgraded them to work with much more, like data and video with the help of 3/4/5G” Olav van Doorn wrote on LinkedIn. “But there’s no way we can run millions, and eventually billions, of autonomous cars on those networks. 3G, 4G and eventually 5G will handle it for a while, but as more of these cars hit the roads it’s just going to be too big to process. We’ll need to build an entirely new infrastructure.”

It’s clear the future of IoT is going to rely on more powerful networks. So, when are the telcos going to make the investment in the real future of IoT? We will have to wait and see. 

 

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