Verizon to test NB-IoT in 2018, may launch sometime thereafter

Verizon released its annual “state of the market” report today on the Internet of Things (IoT) sector, in which the operator noted that, according to a report it commissioned, fully 73% of enterprise executives are either researching or currently deploying IoT services and solutions. Further, Verizon is looking to enhance its own IoT offerings by testing NB-IoT network technology starting next year, with an eye toward deploying the technology at some point after that.

Mark Bartolomeo, VP of IoT connected solutions at Verizon, told FierceWireless that the operator may look to add NB-IoT network capabilities to its existing 4G LTE Cat M1 network in order to offer additional features and functions, including better power management for IoT customer devices. He explained that NB-IoT network technology can run alongside LTE M services, giving IoT customers more connection options. NB-IoT services typically offer slower speeds than LTE M offerings, but also consume less battery power and therefore can support less expensive devices. “The reason that’s important is not because it’s lower cost; the reason that’s important is because it’s a lower cost and it expands the addressable market that we can attach the device to,” Bartolomeo said.

Bartolomeo declined to provide a specific launch date for NB-IoT, saying only that the carrier would test the technology next year and would likely launch it sometime after that. Verizon launched its LTE M IoT network earlier this year.

Verizon would join T-Mobile and potentially Dish Network in offering an NB-IoT network. Dish Network said in March that it would launch an NB-IoT network to meet the FCC’s buildout requirements for its spectrum, according to a filing with the agency. And T-Mobile said in July that it had completed what it called “the continent’s first live network tests” of LTE-based NB-IoT technology along with Qualcomm and Ericsson across multiple sites on its network in Las Vegas using 200 KHz of its AWS spectrum. T-Mobile also unveiled a partnership with Las Vegas to deploy IoT services.

A number of operators in Asia and Europe, including Vodafone, have said they too will launch NB-IoT networks.

For its part, though, AT&T said in May that it will continue to evaluate NB-IoT technology for its own IoT strategy, but that it’s not seeing any big reason to jump on that bandwagon.

“We just see this as an evolution,” Verizon’s Bartolomeo said of NB-IoT.

Verizon and AT&T both switched on LTE M networks earlier this year, with the goal of providing inexpensive data connections to IoT-type devices.

Bartolomeo’s comments on NB-IoT coincide with the release of the operator’s report on the IoT sector. In a survey of industry executives commissioned by the carrier, 73% said their companies are either researching or currently deploying IoT. Further, an absence of industry-wide IoT standards, coupled with security, interoperability and cost considerations, make up over 50% of executive concerns around IoT, according to survey responses.

Verizon also highlighted some IoT case studies the carrier said show the potential in the market:

  • Contractor and construction company Hensel Phelps Construction is using drones to make its design and construction processes more efficient.
  • And Yellow Cab of Columbus is using Verizon’s IoT products to automate and streamline the cab reservation and payment process for its full fleet of cabs and drivers across Ohio.

As for the sectors in which Verizon expects to see the most demand in IoT, Bartolomeo said that the operator is currently seeing the most interest in its IoT products and services coming from the energy management and insurance industries.

Article updated Sept. 18 to clarify Verizon's IoT case studies.