IoT Time: M2M/Internet of Things weekly digest

6 Jul 2017

Sigfox has announced that its partner company WND-UK will accelerate UK coverage of Sigfox’s dedicated LPWA IoT network to ‘up to 95%’ of the population ‘by 2019’. The existing Sigfox partner in the UK (since 2014), Arqiva, will continue to focus on delivering IoT connectivity in the country’s largest urban areas. Currently, Arqiva’s Sigfox network covers 30% of the UK population across eleven major cities including Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Sheffield, supporting applications including smart metering, facilities management and healthcare. Arqiva will continue to service its existing network infrastructure and WND-UK will deploy, operate and maintain a nationwide network, as well as develop Sigfox’s services. Both networks will be ‘fully interoperable’ for Arqiva/WND-UK customers and will enable new applications in areas such as smart logistics and asset tracking. WND-UK has already begun its deployment.

WND-UK is a subsidiary of WND, which already provides Sigfox connectivity in several Latin American countries – Brazil (via WND Brasil), Mexico (via another WND subsidiary IoTnet Mexico) and Colombia (partnering Phaxsi-Solutions, which piloted its Sigfox network in 2015) – with an imminent launch in Argentina (in partnership with fixed-wireless broadband operator VeloCom), followed by planned WND/Sigfox launches in other LatAm countries including Chile, Uruguay and Peru.

Elsewhere, US heavyweight Verizon has performed the first voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) call over its Cat-M1 (LTE-M) network, in partnership with Ericsson (providing IoT network technology) and Qualcomm (providing a multimode LTE modem, chip-enabled for Verizon’s ThingSpace IoT platform).

In a mirror-like development across the Pacific, Ericsson and Qualcomm, this time partnering China Unicom, demoed LTE-M VoLTE usage cases at the recent Mobile World Congress (MWC) Shanghai event, including a fire alarm trigger panel and a GPS emergency tracking device.

Also at MWC Shanghai, YuanTel, China’s second largest MVNO with eight million users, highlighted its M2M/IoT segment penetration, noting that its ‘installed capacity of front-end in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) exceeded 300,000 units, and the subscription base for its IoT accounts is now more than 100,000’.

China Telecom and Ericsson have launched the China Telecom IoT Open Platform – a global connection management platform, enabling enterprises to deploy, control and scale the management of IoT devices, integrating their business processes with the managed connectivity services of China Telecom, which says it will partner its industry customers to drive digital transformation of industries in China and beyond. The IoT Open Platform is powered by Ericsson’s Device Connection Platform, launched in 2012 and currently supporting ‘more than 25 operators and over 2,000 enterprise customers’ as part of Ericsson’s IoT Accelerator platform. China Telecom also announced an expanded partnership with Hong Kong’s HKT to use a common IoT open platform to serve both operators’ customers in mainland China and Hong Kong; the agreement, based on embedded technologies, follows the Chinese giant’s similar recent international tie-ups with the Telenor and Orange groups.

China Mobile, Cubic Telecom and Valid have teamed up to deliver an LTE-based connectivity solution, whereby IoT device makers and service providers can use Cubic Telecom’s global eSIM to enable LTE-based connectivity on China Mobile’s network for their telematics and infotainment devices. Showcased at MWC Shanghai, the solution leverages Dublin-based Cubic Telecom’s IoT Connectivity platform and China Mobile’s Connected Car platform, also using GSMA-compliant subscription management solutions from Brazil-based Valid. ‘The integration of eSIM platforms paves the way for accelerated innovation across the China Mobile network,’ a spokesperson for the cellco declared.

Spark New Zealand has announced the commencement of a nationwide LPWA IoT network rollout based on LoRaWAN technology in partnership with Kordia, which is designing and developing the infrastructure, and Actility (providing an IoT services platform and support). A ‘significant proportion’ of the network is expected to be operational by June 2018, whilst Spark also notes that it is utilising the Qrious big data analytics system to process data from sensors and devices connected over the LoRa network. Furthermore, Spark revealed that it is also ‘advancing plans’ to deploy cellular licensed spectrum-based LPWA IoT network technologies, namely LTE-M and NB-IoT. The operator stated: ‘We believe that there are different use cases emerging for different IoT networks, depending on the level and type of data that needs to be transmitted by IoT devices.’ Investing in LoRa alongside LTE-based investments will, Spark believes, place it in a position to provide the broadest set of IoT solutions to its customers.

Much more narrow(band) in its focus, Spark’s rival Vodafone New Zealand is following its UK parent group’s LPWA policy in championing NB-IoT, and has set an early 2018 launch date target for the technology. Technology director Tony Baird said of the strategy: ‘There are many IoT networks available now but we think NB-IoT is a premium technology choice that is worth waiting for … Vodafone has a strong IoT heritage with more than 1.4 million connected devices operating across its 2G network in New Zealand. NB-IoT deployment is an evolution of this network, so it can support tens of millions more devices in future.’ Having tested NB-IoT with Nokia in September 2016, Vodafone NZ will pilot the technology with a select group of business customers in late 2017.

Lattelecom has disclosed that its LoRaWAN IoT network has reached complete coverage of Latvian capital Riga, whilst expansion of the network is ongoing in Rezekne, Talsi, Cesis, Jurmala and other towns.

Vodacom South Africa has opened a NB-IoT laboratory at its Vodaworld campus to incubate and commercialise M2M/IoT systems/solutions, following its announcement last month of ‘Africa’s first live NB-IoT site’, in partnership with Huawei.

South Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning reports that there were 5.95 million consumer M2M/IoT subscriptions on the country’s three cellular networks at the end of May, representing roughly 10% of all cellular connections nationwide. Of the total, the ministry said that around 36%, or 2.13 million, connections were for remote controlling services (including smart home IoT services), whilst vehicle communications such as telematics services represented the second biggest chunk, with 1.24 million subscribers. The ministry’s data classified ‘IoT’ services into five categories: remote control, vehicular, tablet/PCs (note: not standardly included in IoT service categories), wearable devices and mobile payment services.

Also in Korea, SK Telecom and Dongyang ENP have partnered on a service using LoRa IoT infrastructure that reads the power status of household solar power stations, under the Solar Power Management banner, earmarked for commercial introduction by the end of this month. SK Telecom launched its IoT-dedicated LoRa network in July 2016.

Swisscom has confirmed that it will launch both NB-IoT and LTE-M networks in 2018, with tests of both technologies due to start by the end of 2017, supplementing the telco’s existing LoRaWAN-based LPWA IoT network. Swisscom added that it will also continue to expand LoRaWAN coverage to reach 90% of Switzerland’s population by the end of this year.

Sticking with Switzerland, the city of St Gallen has begun a pilot of smart parking services via the existing LoRaWAN network there, testing sensors/technology from four companies – IEM, Adec Technologies, Leicom and ParkHere – and analysing the data collected, with results to be presented in autumn 2018.

In other smart cities developments, Vietnam Posts & Telecommunications Corporation (VNPT) has been selected by Ca Mau and Ha Nam provinces to develop smart urban projects, including the ‘Intelligent Urban Construction’ programme. Similarly, in Russia, ER-Telecom (Dom.ru) and the city of Kursk signed a smart city agreement, including cooperation on a ’Safe City’ programme.

Russian cellco MegaFon has launched a connected cash register package, with M2M-based management/control functions (including direct data transferal from cash tills to the tax agency – based on a joint solution with fiscal data operator OFD.ru). MegaFon predicts that 30% of cash registers in the country will be connected with mobile SIMs by the end of this year, forecasting a figure of 70% by end-2018.

Sierra Wireless has unveiled what it claims to be the first global, dual-mode LPWA mobile IoT module; the AirPrime WP77 smart wireless module supports LTE-M and NB-IoT, aimed at simplifying LPWA deployments for customers developing products requiring connectivity on multiple networks, whilst it also supports 2G network fallback.

Also going dual-mode, Qualcomm has launched its ‘Snapdragon Wear 1200’ wearables platform incorporating LTE-M and NB-IoT connectivity, designed to connect wearable devices for fitness trackers, children, the elderly and pets. The new range complements the existing Snapdragon Wear 1100 and 2100 platforms.

US behemoth AT&T was the first operator to deploy Cisco Jasper’s recently upgraded IoT platform – Control Center 7.0 – which includes various enhanced features, aimed at addressing businesses’ demand for improved management flexibility with a new multi-tiered IoT platform giving enterprises more options to meet specific needs, regardless of a companies’ stage of IoT implementation.

Finally, in udder news, Vodafone Germany has partnered Moocall to enable farmers to remotely monitor pregnant cows via tail-mounted sensors linked to its IoT network, following the group’s (or herd’s?) initial bovine bandwidth breakthrough in the UK and Ireland, where Vodafone has reportedly helped give birth to around 150,000 calves safely, according to its press release (which might be milking it a bit, though …).

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