AT&T takes another step towards the global IOT dream

AT&T has signed a partnership agreement with Canadian telco Rogers, to extend LTE-M coverage for IoT customers of both companies, throughout Canada and the US.

Rogers IoT customers will now have the ability to roam on the AT&T LTE-M network, with the same privilege being offered the other direction. With AT&T relying heavily on IOT to drive new engagement with enterprise customers, this is another example of the US telco spreading its wings across the globe.

“More and more of our enterprise customers are launching IoT applications across international boundaries,” said Chris Penrose, President of Advanced Mobility and Enterprise Solutions at AT&T.

“Having access to the Rogers LTE-M network across Canada will help them simplify deployments and scale their North American IoT plans.”

The emerging IOT world is one which offers a huge amount of promise for the ambitious AT&T team. In a briefing at Mobile World Congress this year, AT&T told us the opportunity was not only from connectivity, but to move up the value-chain and create platforms and customisable software solutions for enterprise.

There are of course multiple elements to ensure this dream can be realised, however a network which reaches beyond the borders of the US is critical. The IOT business can survive in a single country, but if you want to work with the big boys you have to be able to offer a network which meets the demands of an international business.

With the Rogers partnership, the trio in Canada has been completed. AT&T has a network in Mexico and also a significant partnership in Europe. The European collaboration offers AT&T access to KPN’s LTE-M network in the Netherlands, Swisscom’s in Switzerland and Orange’s in France and Romania. The European operators also gain exposure on AT&T’s networks in the US and Mexico.

With these partnerships in place in Europe, AT&T can expect to cover a significant proportion of the continent, though there are still some significant holes. Orange plans to fill in some of the blank spots with LTE-M launches in Belgium, Slovakia, Spain and Poland, though there is still some work to do.

This is the challenge which AT&T faces in the IOT world. It might be one of the largest and most profitable telcos worldwide, but it is largely limited to the US. If you look at other operators, Orange or Vodafone for example, the physical presence around the world is much more notable. This will factor into the thinking of a few multi-national customers.

Rivals get Rogered in Canadian 600 MHz spectrum auction

Canada made 70 MHz of 600 MHz spectrum available nationally in a recent auction and Rogers got nearly half of it.

Low frequency spectrum such as this is especially handy in huge countries such as Canada due to its long range. Canada split the band, which covers 614-698 MHz including the guard band and duplex gap, into seven chunks of 10 MHz. Each of those in turn was divided into 16 regions, making 112 licenses in total. As you can see in the table below Rogers got 52 of those, dropping C$1.725 billion for the privilege.

Canada 600mhz auction

“We are proud to make leading and meaningful investments to build the 5G ecosystem in Canada and to help drive our country’s global competitive advantage,” said Joe Natale, CEO of Rogers Communications. “This 5G spectrum is a precious and scarce resource that will benefit Canadians and Canadian businesses across the country.”

It’s interesting that this is being positioned as 5G spectrum. Unlike millimetre wave, for example, there’s nothing uniquely 5G about low frequency spectrum, so we can only assume the Canadian government made the spectrum available on the condition that it’s used for 5G. Having said that the quote further down from Shaw appears to contradict that.

In distant second place in terms of spend was Telus. “The acquisition and deployment of this spectrum is critical to the advancement of our national 5G growth strategy and to the global-leading network quality, speed and coverage we provide to Canadians,” said Telus CEO Darren Entwistle. “As the demand for wireless data continues to grow, the acquisition of 600 MHz spectrum will enable Telus to deliver enhanced urban and rural connectivity to our customers on Canada’s fastest and most reliable network.”

Shaw Communications subsidiary Freedom Mobile seemed to get a good deal by paying half as much as Telus for more population coverage. “We have made significant investments to improve the wireless experience for Canadians, becoming a true alternative to the incumbents, with a differentiated value proposition,” said Brad Shaw, Shaw CEO. “The addition of this 600 MHz low band spectrum will not only vastly improve our current LTE service but will also serve as a foundational element of our 5G strategy providing innovative and affordable wireless services to Canadians for years to come.”

Conspicuously absent from the process was Bell, which seems to think it didn’t need any because it’s already sorted for low frequency spectrum. “Bell leverages each new generation of wireless network technology to drive renewed innovation and productivity growth, and with 5G we’ll take connectivity further than ever before with smart cities, connected vehicles and other revolutionary service advancements for both consumers and business users,” said Bell’s CTO Stephen Howe. “Bell looks forward to participating in upcoming federal auctions of the mid band 3500 MHz and high band millimetre wave spectrum that will be required to drive the Fifth Generation of wireless.”

So while Rogers got loads more licenses than anyone else, Freedom Mobile could be viewed at the big winner in terms of cost per population covered. According to Ovum’s WCIS Freedom only accounts for around 5% of Canadian mobile subscribers right now. Judging by the outcome of this auction it has ambitions to significantly increase that share in the 5G era.