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BARCELONA – AT&T is seeking to extend its Internet of Things influences further afield, pushing for global connectivity in part via a new Bridge Alliance initiative for connected cars.

According to the carrier, the newly announced Bridge Alliance consists of a group of Asia Pacific, Middle Eastern, and African carriers that have pledged to help streamline global deployments of connected car technology. AT&T said the collaboration sets forth a framework for it to extend its geographic reach to deliver infotainment services for an improved driving experience in growth markets covered by Alliance members.

“Our collaboration with AT&T is based on the alignment and integration of processes, platforms and propositions,” Bridge Alliance CEO Eileen Tan commented. “This presents exciting possibilities for the automotive industry, helping to accelerate the delivery of cutting-edge connected car solutions in our markets.”

AT&T said the initiative will help it bring services like WiFi hotspots, internet radio, and live traffic reporting to markets where automotive manufacturers have traditionally had difficulty implementing them.

To date, AT&T has partnerships with 22 automotive companies and long-haul truck brands, and currently supports more than 12 million connected vehicles on the road. AT&T also has IoT partnerships with Vodafone in Europe, China Mobile in Asia and Bell and Telus in Canada as well. The carrier provides its own connectivity in the United States via its LTE network, and recently announced plans to accelerate its deployment of LTE-M technology both stateside and in Mexico.

AT&T’s president of Internet of Things Solutions Chris Penrose and CEO of Business Solutions and International Thaddeus Arroyo told Wireless Week at Mobile World Congress this week that the LTE-M capability is delivered via a software update to its network sites. Mexico connectivity, they said, is coming in the fourth quarter. Site tests are currently underway in the country, and the rollout should be complete within nine months, Penrose said. While they couldn’t account for unannounced plans from other operators, AT&T believes it will be the first to offer nationwide LTE-M in the country, the execs said.

On drones

Further to the carrier’s recent Flying Cell-on-Wheels announcement, Penrose explained the carrier is not only working on drones for its own internal uses – that is for coverage and infrastructure inspections – but also for external use cases such as farming, disaster recovery, and other information gathering.

“A lot of business customers are experimenting with drone technology,” Penrose said. “And it’s not just about capturing video."

Penrose said while the rules for drones today require line of sight, the carrier is looking into meeting the needs of new use cases that require going beyond that limit. As part of that, he said, AT&T is working with chipset vendors like Qualcomm and Intel to optimize routing based on cell site coverage and signal strength.

According to Penrose, the advancement of drone technology is likely to shadow that of autonomous vehicles.

“A lot of what you’re hearing in autonomous actually will take place with drones as well,” he said. “Drones need to communicate with each other as well as being driven. So, I actually think we’ll take a lot of learning from autonomous cars.”

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