Midweek M2M: IoT and machine-to-machine developments

1 Feb 2017

Vodafone Spain has launched the country’s first commercial NB-IoT network. To date, companies in the cities of Valencia and Madrid can connect devices using NB-IoT, whilst businesses in Barcelona, Bilbao, Malaga and Seville will gain access to the network in the coming weeks as part of Vodafone’s national deployment, with NB-IoT being used to connect different product categories such as gas and water meters, intelligent containers, fire alarms, parking meters and other sensors. Vodafone Spain expects more than 1,000 mobile sites to support NB-IoT by the end of March. Each NB-IoT site can support more than 100,000 devices. Vodafone completed its first NB-IoT trial with Huawei in Madrid in September 2016, using a 4G 800MHz base station.

Slightly ahead of the game, T-Mobile Netherlands has disclosed that it is planning to expand the coverage of its existing commercial NB-IoT network to Arnhem, Best, Delft, Den Bosch, Enschede and Groningen, augmenting the current footprint encompassing Amsterdam (including Schiphol airport and surrounds), Eindhoven, Rotterdam and The Hague. T-Mobile Netherlands launched Europe’s first commercial NB-IoT end-to-end system in October 2016 using 900MHz spectrum.

In Belarus, meanwhile, velcom says it is ready to be the first cellco in the country to deploy NB-IoT, beginning this year, saying that the new technology will provide benefits such as improving urban infrastructure management efficiency and allowing users to remotely control household devices. velcom has earmarked 200kHz NB-IoT bandwidth within its current GSM range. The operator’s statement added: ‘Existing M2M solutions are not well suited for a large number of smart devices, while the new technology would make it possible to effectively use hundreds of thousands of IoT devices with low-cost sensors.’

On a larger scale, China Mobile and Ericsson recently signed a strategic agreement to cooperate on IoT as part of China Mobile’s ‘Big Connectivity’ strategy. The Ericsson Device Connection Platform will be used to manage IoT connections and provide a ‘unified and consistent’ service for global customers, while China Mobile said recently that it expects to serve 200 million connected devices in 2017. In a more immediate consequence of the pair’s collaboration, Ericsson and China Mobile’s Shanghai division partnered Mobike – the popular bike-sharing service – to trial cellular IoT technologies on the cellco’s live network to allow Mobike’s IoT-enabled bikes to be located more accurately. Zhongjie Yang of Mobike commented: ‘CAT-M1 and NB-IoT will greatly enhance user experience in the future.’

With similar ambitions in the Middle East, Israeli mobile operator Cellcom has established an NB-IoT laboratory with Nokia, where IoT applications will be tested before commercial rollout, the Globes newspaper reported.

Taiwan’s Asia Pacific Telecom has become the latest cellco to launch the Cisco Jasper IoT connectivity management platform ‘Control Center’. Meanwhile, Cisco’s acquisition drive continues with the recently announced USD3.7 billion purchase of AppDynamics, which focuses on areas which Cisco regards as vital in the IoT world: application performance monitoring, end user monitoring and infrastructure visibility.

On the LoRa side of the fence, French operator Bouygues Telecom’s IoT division, Objenious, has expanded its LoRa footprint to 93% of the French population and 84% of national territory, reaching over 30,000 municipalities. Objenious has recently signed an international roaming agreement with German IoT specialist Digimondo (owned by E.ON) adding to a similar partnership with US-based IoT platform Senet, with plans to expand roaming to various other countries including the UK. Objenious currently manages tens of thousands of connected objects for over 40 clients.

Italy’s RaiWay, the tower infrastructure operating unit of state-backed broadcaster Rai, has joined the LoRa Alliance, which was established in 2015 to define and promote secure, carrier grade standards for low power, wide area IoT connectivity. RaiWay is particularly focusing its IoT efforts on Smart City services.

India’s Tata Communications – which currently operates a LoRa IoT network covering Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Jamshedpur – is planning to expand coverage to ‘60 cities’ by the end of 2017, and ‘the rest of the country’ in 2019, the Economic Times reported. Tata Communications has meanwhile purchased a 35% stake in Netherlands-based MVNE/IoT services provider Teleena, giving it a seat on the supervisory board; Tata’s wholesale services will support Teleena products/services, an example being a secure SIM used by Dutch airline KLM in over 5,000 tablet devices.

Also looking globally, Orange Business Services has won a three-year contract with Italian telematics service provider Viasat Group to support global IoT roaming services for up to 350,000 SIM cards. Viasat, specialising in sectors including insurance and fleet management, will combine its satellite tracking services with Orange’s IoT connectivity across its international footprint.

Straddling the aforementioned NB-IoT/LoRa ‘fence’, Nokia is launching an updated version of its IoT platform IMPACT (‘Intelligent Management Platform for All Connected Things’) – supporting both NB-IoT and LoRa – aiming to provide ‘industry-leading device management, security and analytics capabilities’ alongside a ‘unique’ single, horizontal platform allowing customers to manage and analyse data across multiple IoT applications.

In the automotive sphere, another Scandinavian big-hitter, Norway’s Telenor Group, is testing Telenor Connect, a new IoT car monitoring app for use by drivers, whilst the company has also established a ‘Nordic Car Connect Forum’ with key partners. Also on the roads, but in sunnier climes, Vodafone Qatar and Qatar Mobility Innovations Centre (QMIC) have jointly launched their Fleet Management service, a telematics service enabling vehicle tracking and logistics management, utilising Vodafone’s global IoT platform. In a similar vein, Telefonica Mexico signed a multi-year agreement to roll out telematics across the Hertz Mexico vehicle fleet (the largest car rental fleet in Mexico).

In terms of M2M/IoT usage statistics around the world, US telecoms giant AT&T has reported that the total number of ‘connected devices’ on the AT&T Mobility network surged to 31.591 million at the end of 2016, up from 26.213 million in December 2015 and 21.965 million at end-2014. Rival operator Verizon Communications, meanwhile, noted that its IoT revenues, led by telematics, increased 21% in 2016, reaching USD243 million, and it expects to sustain this strong trend.

Heading South to Brazil, regulator Anatel reported that the country reached 12.093 million M2M accounts at 30 September 2016, broken down as 7.266 million ‘Standard’ connections, and 4.827 million ‘Special’ connections. As per Anatel’s definitions, Special M2M devices operate without human intervention, and primarily transmit data for remote monitoring purposes, while Standard M2M devices are for personal use. Telefonica Brasil (Vivo) was believed to be the M2M market leader at the end of 3Q16, with 4.770 million accounts.

Over in Europe, Irish regulatory counterpart ComReg recorded that Ireland’s M2M subscription base reached 647,894 at 30 September 2016, up 6.8% from 606,683 on a quarterly basis. In 3Q16 Three Ireland had the largest M2M market share at 48.0%, followed by Vodafone Ireland with 46.9%. The watchdog noted that M2M communication is set to grow rapidly, driven by expansion of advanced telecoms networks and declining costs of embedded wireless modules and sensors.

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