IoT Time: M2M/Internet of Things weekly digest

17 May 2017

Vodacom South Africa has claimed the first ‘live’ NB-IoT network in Africa. In partnership with China’s Huawei, Vodacom switched on its first live NB-IoT site having upgraded the software on an existing 4G LTE base station on the roof of its data centre at its campus in Midrand, Johannesburg. Vodacom’s low power wide area (LPWA) NB-IoT network will run on its existing licensed 900MHz spectrum, and the cellco is phasing in wider coverage deployment, with a commercial launch planned ‘soon’. Vodacom and Huawei have also switched on a pilot NB-IoT water metering system on the campus.

Elsewhere in Africa, Nokia and SRG have embarked on a collaboration with the government of Rwanda to deploy Smart City technology this year. In an announcement at the Transform Africa Summit in Kigali, Nokia’s Mohamed Abdelrehim said that the project aims to deliver ‘a secure and effective Smart City solution, that includes a mission-critical access network, IP and Cloud Core networks, as well as [Nokia’s] Impact Platform with associated IoT applications’. As part of the project rollout, the Rwandan government will invest in network connectivity and sensor deployment for various applications such as public safety, waste management, utilities and healthcare.

In the US, Sprint has announced it will complete its deployment of LTE Cat 1 technology across its nationwide network by the end of July 2017, before starting to deploy LTE Cat M1 (a.k.a. LTE-M) in mid-2018 in partnership with Ericsson, in turn followed by the rollout of LTE Cat NB1 (a.k.a. NB-IoT). LTE Cat 1 is designed to support low-power applications such as vehicle telematics and industrial IoT applications, whilst the rollout of LTE-M and NB-IoT is aimed at supporting ‘numerous other applications requiring ultra-low throughput and power consumption such as industrial sensors, asset trackers, or wearables’, a Sprint press release stated. Mohamad Nasser, general manager of Sprint’s IoT Business Unit, added: ‘IoT, along with wireless and wireline, is one of the three critical business lines for the Sprint Business portfolio. We are investing effort and capital to make sure that Sprint is well positioned to capitalise on the incredible growth that IoT will experience globally.’ Sprint claims that it is already the ‘seventh largest’ provider of M2M/IoT devices in the world. Note that US network rival Verizon launched a nationwide commercial LTE-M network in March this year, whilst AT&T is also set to launch nationwide LTE-M by mid-year.

T-Mobile Netherlands claims that it will be the first Dutch operator to boast a nationwide commercial NB-IoT network later this month. T-Mobile says it is expecting large scale demand from companies using IoT applications and sensors connected to the new network, which is supported by the company’s S-RAN architecture allowing software-based platform upgrades, and uses existing licensed frequencies. T-Mobile Netherlands launched Europe’s first commercial NB-IoT end-to-end system in October 2016 using 900MHz spectrum. Rival Vodafone Netherlands is currently testing NB-IoT technology, whilst KPN Netherlands currently offers nationwide LPWA IoT services via a LoRaWAN network. A Sigfox LPWA IoT network is also available in the Netherlands via a country-exclusive partnership with Aerea (which itself has teamed up with cellcos including Tele2 Netherlands to offer customers Sigfox-based services).

Swedish broadcast transmission network operator Teracom is providing tower and site capacity to IoT Sweden, the country’s exclusive Sigfox network operator. IoT Sweden has agreed to use around 500 Teracom sites for its network aimed at providing connectivity for a range of applications including automotive, industrial machinery and others. Teracom is beginning deployment of the necessary equipment ‘this spring’, with rollout to continue throughout the year and into 2018.

Belarusian cellco velcom is the latest member of the Telekom Austria Group to officially test an NB-IoT network, having announced water supply and smart home application trials in partnership with ZTE. Christian Laque, CTO of velcom, said this week: ‘This is a 100% ready-to-use network that just needs to be connected to the core infrastructure.’ Telekom Austria Group held its first NB-IoT live network trial in Vienna last October.

Russian consultancy AC&M calculated that Russia’s total IoT market value grew by 30% to reach approximately USD1.2 billion in 2016, including network operator earnings which increased by 25% to around USD135 million.

Turkey’s Turkcell and Huawei have signed a new agreement to expand their existing cooperation on 4.5G, 5G and IoT technologies, aiming to intensify joint efforts in the fields of R&D and domestic production. The latest cooperation agreement involves innovations in IoT, smart city applications and local production in 4.5G (including base station) technology. Joint teams are being set up for the realisation of smart cities in Turkey using domestic production and software. The partners will also jointly carry out standardisation work in IoT.

Teoco, a provider of analytics, assurance and optimisation products, has joined the LoRa Alliance, announcing that it will share its expertise in IoT LoRa network analytics, planning and optimisation with other members. Teoco added that its participation in the LoRa Alliance underlines its focus on extending support for IoT products operating in unlicensed spectrum (whilst it also remains committed to advancing IoT technology innovation leveraging licensed spectrum through NB-IoT). Also this week, Airgain became a LoRa Alliance member whilst announcing its first shipments of a new line of antennas designed specifically for LPWA IoT networks, for deployment in a network trial using the LoRaWAN protocol for ‘a large North American carrier’.

Lastly, Spanish telecom giant Telefonica gave an update on its multinational M2M/IoT operations in its Q1 2017 report, with the group’s M2M revenues reaching EUR69 million (USD76 million) in the quarter, up by 37.3% year-on-year, ‘due to the acceleration of connectivity and loT solutions, and the rollout of flagship projects in core geographies’. M2M subscriptions across the group reached 14.488 million at 31 March 2017, up 15.1% on an annualised basis, with the largest chunk of M2M connections in Brazil, where Telefonica counted 5.272 million active M2M SIMs on its network, up 20.1% y-o-y. In addition, Telefonica’s report noted that it is working on its ‘global strategy’ for NB-IoT and Sigfox LPWA communications based on using licensed and non-licensed technologies according to each specific case and the customer’s needs.

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