IoT Time: M2M/Internet of Things weekly digest

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2 May 2019

Movistar Argentina – part of the Telefonica group – has announced that it is deploying both LTE-M and NB-IoT technologies over its 4G LTE cellular network. The company has already made LTE-M available to users in the Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires (AMBA), and by mid-2019 it expects LTE-M to cover the entire national LTE network. NB-IoT will be deployed ‘in the next few months’, targeting rollout completion by the end of the year. Movistar says it will be the first in Argentina to adopt cellular low power wide area (LPWA) IoT technology on a large scale.

US giant AT&T has declared that its NB-IoT network is now live nationwide, complementing its existing LPWA LTE-M network across the US and Mexico, whilst it expects to begin deployment of NB-IoT in Mexico later this year. Both networks are designed for licensed spectrum IoT operations with carrier-grade security, and AT&T says that by having dual technologies it can offer its business customers more options to implement IoT solutions with interoperability and lower costs. The operator adds that NB-IoT is optimised for stationary use cases with basic data requirements like simple sensors, on-off buttons, smart agriculture, smoke detectors, door locks and industrial monitors. LTE-M, with its greater bandwidth, can support firmware and software updates, mobility and voice-over services (for instance AT&T has deployed pet trackers, asset management, medical wearables, utility meters and various other solutions over LTE-M). Both networks connect devices ‘out of the box’ without the complexity of setting up Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, whilst coverage reaches deep inside buildings and underground, with typically ten-year device battery life.

Not to be outshone, Sprint says it is testing NB-IoT technology in the US, although it is being cagier about it than AT&T, reasoning that it will deploy commercial NB-IoT only if it gauges enough customer demand. FierceWireless quotes Ivo Rook, SVP of IoT at Sprint, saying that the operator has the ability to switch to NB-IoT ‘fairly seamlessly’ if customers want the technology. Last November, Sprint launched the Curiosity IoT platform over its nationwide LTE-M network, and Rook disclosed that the operator has increased its IoT sales by 500% since Curiosity’s debut, whilst 70% of its IoT user base are new customers to Sprint. Note that another US major player T-Mobile has a nationwide NB-IoT network, whilst Verizon said last year that it was deploying NB-IoT alongside its LTE-M network. Dish Networks plans to deploy an NB-IoT network and is currently working on deals with vendors.

Russian mobile operator MegaFon has expanded its NB-IoT network to the Urals Federal District, launching coverage initially in the major city of Yekaterinburg. In 2018 MegaFon deployed its first commercial NB-IoT sections in areas including St Petersburg, Moscow and Murmansk.

UK Digital Minister Margot James has proposed new legislation on IoT security, under which a labelling system would inform customers how secure a smart/connected device was. Initially a voluntary scheme, the draft regulation says that retailers would eventually be banned from selling consumer IoT products without labels, the BBC reports. The law would require all device manufacturers to: provide unique passwords; state clearly for how long security updates would be made available; and offer a public point of contact to disclose cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Ian Levy, technical director of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, said: ‘Serious security problems in consumer IoT devices, such as pre-set unchangeable passwords, continue to be discovered, and it’s unacceptable that these are not being fixed by manufacturers.’

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Argentina, Mexico, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, AT&T Communications, AT&T Mexico, MegaFon, Sprint Corporation (now part of T-Mobile US), Telefonica Argentina (Movistar)