M2M Monthly: a guide to recent machine-to-machine and IoT developments

15 Sep 2016

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has announced its plans for the 803MHz-960MHz frequency band, with machine-to-machine (M2M) communications usage a key component of the proposals. The 803MHz-960MHz spectrum is currently used for fixed links, trunked land mobile services, sound outside broadcast, and studio-to-transmitter links, with consumer devices also operating within the 915MHz-928MHz band under Low Interference Potential Devices (LIPD) class licences. The 803MHz-820MHz spectrum band was also formerly used for analogue television. In December 2015 the watchdog released a set of proposed changes to spectrum regulations aimed at providing easier access for M2M operators utilising spectrum for the Internet of Things (IoT), with outgoing ACMA chairman Chris Chapman later saying that M2M spectrum allocation and management is a ‘key issue’. The regulator has published a transition timeline outlining the compliance dates for each stage, with the first milestone marked for June 2018 and all arrangements to be in place by June 2024.

In the US, meanwhile, the House of Representatives took a significant step towards developing a national IoT strategy this week, when it unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution calling for the Federal government to ‘develop a national strategy to encourage development of the IoT for connected technologies to empower consumers, foster future economic growth and improve the nation’s collective social well-being’. The resolution, H.Res. 847, was passed with a majority 367-4 vote.

Japanese telecoms group SoftBank Corp will offer IoT solutions that utilise a Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) network, which enables low power consumption and long distance connectivity for IoT devices. In the first phase, SoftBank will provide ‘LoRaWAN’, one type of LPWA network, in the current 2016 fiscal year and offer end-to-end IoT solutions, ranging from device and application support to consulting. SoftBank, will work in partnership with LPWA network supplier Actility, electronics manufacturing services (EMS) provider Hon Hai Precision Industry and LoRa developer Semtech Corporation, to build the LoRaWAN ecosystem. LoRa is an alternative open network, which competes with the Narrowband LTE specification (NB-LTE, also known as NB-IoT). The latter platform has already been approved by industry standards body 3GPP.

Kuala Lumpur-based edotco Group has announced its readiness to support the IoT aspirations of local mobile operator Axiata and Smart City solution provider Atilze, after reaching an agreement to provide 25 sites for LoRa networks in Klang Valley. The cellos recently unveiled a twelve-month collaboration agreement to trial, explore, develop and pursue viable IoT opportunities across Southeast Asia. Their immediate focus will be on connected car solutions as well as commercialising city-wide LoRa network deployments by implementing Proof-of-Concept (POC) pilots in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

Millicom International Cellular (MIC) has selected Paris-based Safran Identity & Security as one of its partners to supply secure elements and applications for M2M/IoT in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Safran will deliver its M2M SIM card, which can handle extreme environmental, memory management and lifetime needs of Millicom’s M2M customers. In addition, a ‘lock and refresh’ application will enable remote monitoring and management of M2M cards in the field. Yves Portalier, vice president and general manager (Telecom Business Unit) at Safran Identity & Security, commented: ‘IoT technology is already revolutionising the way business gets done. With Safran’s products and solutions, Millicom is able to open up new business possibilities, such as telematics, smart metering, smart vending machines and for the IoT in general.’

Paris-based Sequans Communications has been contracted by T-Mobile US to deliver its LTE Cat 1 technology and products to the cellco’s M2M and IoT customers. Sequans’ Calliope LTE Cat 1 chipset platform, which supports VoLTE and enables a wide range of industrial and consumer IoT applications, including asset tracking, alarm systems, telematics devices and smart utility meters, is now certified and available for use on T-Mobile’s network. The two companies prepared for the launch of LTE Cat 1 IoT devices on T-Mobile’s network by conducting a successful network and device trial on T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network last year, the press release notes.

In related news, T-Mobile US has said that it has started offering free 2G M2M SIM cards to any AT&T Mobility M2M users who are ‘stranded without wireless connectivity or facing costly upgrades’ as a result of AT&T’s decision to shut down its 2G network at the end of 2016. T-Mobile has pledged to continue supporting its nationwide 2G network until 2020 and is now offering free 2G service up to 50MB per device per month until the end of 2016, as an incentive.

Bluesky Cook Islands and New Zealand’s KotahiNet have deployed a LoRaWAN-based public wireless network for IoT in north Rarotonga, which the partners plan to expand to the rest of the island in due course. Bluesky is currently not charging for connecting IoT devices via the network.

Telia Company (formerly Telia Sonera) has renamed its ‘New Ventures’ business unit as ‘Division X’, and has tasked the unit with spearheading and accelerating the group’s activities in emerging business areas such as IoT, Cloud and eHealth. Brendan Ives, Head of Division X, said: ‘Innovation is all about execution. X will focus on capturing and developing close to the core growth opportunities and new revenue streams’. As at 30 June 2016, Telia reported a total of 1.483 million M2M subscriptions, up from 1.328 million one year earlier. The bulk of these accounts (787,000) were situated in Telia’s domestic market, Sweden.

Brazilian telecoms regulator the National Telecommunications Agency (Agencia Nacional de Telecomunicacoes, Anatel) has reported that the total number of M2M accounts in the country reached 11.757 million at 30 June 2016, broken down as 7.383 million ‘Standard’ connections, and 4.374 million ‘Special’ connections. As per the regulator’s August 2014 reclassification, Special M2M devices are used without human intervention, and primarily transmit data for remote monitoring purposes. Telefonica Brasil (Vivo) was believed to be the M2M market leader at that date, with 4.590 million accounts.

Finally, Spain passed the milestone of four million M2M accesses, ending the first half of 2016 with 4.004 million connections, according to data from the National Commission for Markets and Competition (Comision Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia, CNMC). This figure represented an increase of around 630,000 connections on an annualised basis, from 3.374 million.

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