IoT Time: M2M/Internet of Things weekly digest

13 Sep 2017

T-Mobile US has confirmed its plans to launch a commercial NB-IoT network this autumn, with certified T-Mobile NB-IoT modules available by early 2018, and NB-IoT services to be expanded ‘nationwide’ later in 2018. NB-IoT trials begin in Las Vegas in the next few weeks. Separate vendor releases confirmed that Sierra Wireless and Telit have already tested NB-IoT modules on the T-Mobile network. T-Mobile also revealed that it will roll out LTE-M (a.k.a. Cat M1) technology for IoT solutions requiring voice support (something NB-IoT does not cover) in 2018. Looking to the future, T-Mobile also highlighted that its 600MHz spectrum would help bolster its IoT network capabilities.

T-Mobile’s two larger cellular rivals Verizon and AT&T have both rolled out national LTE-M networks, whilst fourth-placed cellco Sprint will upgrade to LTE-M sometime next year. This week, however, Verizon disclosed that it is also looking to begin testing NB-IoT in 2018. Mark Bartolomeo, VP of IoT connected solutions at Verizon, told FierceWireless that the operator is considering adding NB-IoT capabilities to its existing LTE-M network to enable additional functions, including improved power management for IoT customer devices, and more connection options by supporting cheaper devices. Bartolomeo did not suggest an exact launch timeframe for NB-IoT.

Not to be outshone, AT&T has announced two new IoT developments: completing pilots on its in-deployment Mexican LTE-M network during the third quarter; and performing a ‘world-first’ LTE-M international data session (between Mexico and the US). The LTE-M pilots in Tijuana and Puebla reaffirmed AT&T’s plans for deployment across Mexico by the end of 2017. AT&T said that the pilots involved evaluating performance of the LTE-M network and chipset technology in a variety of situations with Ericsson and Qualcomm respectively, whilst the maiden international LTE-M data session between its US-Mexican LTE-M networks was declared as ‘a big step toward creating a North American footprint … [for] business customers’.

Chinese bike sharing company Ofo and China Telecom have officially launched their NB-IoT-enabled smart lock for Ofo’s bicycle fleet spanning nine countries and around 200 cities, reports Mobile World Live. China Telecom said the low power consumption of the NB-IoT chip in the lock means the battery will last eight to ten years, so it will not need replacing during the standard lifecycle of an Ofo bike. China Telecom’s 800MHz NB-IoT network, launched in May this year, covers around 95% of mainland China; the telco introduced a standard tariff structure for NB-IoT services in June, whilst its NB-IoT apps are hosted via Huawei Cloud. One NB-IoT base station on China Telecom’s network can support 100,000 devices over 2.5 square kilometres.

Nokia has expanded its ‘worldwide IoT network grid’ (WING) solutions range with ‘IoT market entry services’ – a consultancy-based offering to help mobile operators enter new IoT market segments or expand their footprint geographically in nine IoT segments: connected car, healthcare, logistics & transport, smart cities, utilities, agriculture, retail, smart homes & buildings, and connected industry (industrial IoT). Nokia promises to identify the best vertical market opportunities in a region, and provide the related IoT applications and go-to-market model to help operators scale fast to take advantage of rapidly growing IoT opportunities. Besides the WING market entry services, Nokia has also announced it is expanding its capabilities in multivendor testing services with ‘Nokia TestHub’ – aimed at helping operators to test their solutions and devices extensively across domains and technologies before rollout. As part of the Nokia TestHub, Nokia will provide ‘Lab as a Service’ to give customers early access to state-of-the-art infrastructure and expertise for self-testing of devices, network elements, applications and services.

Telia Sweden has expanded its Telia Sense connected car platform to the business fleet segment, offering a comprehensive solution with car control/management features and Wi-Fi connectivity, integration with corporate/private vehicle journey logs, parking app, roadside assistance access and other functions. Patrik Granstrom, Head of Small and Medium Business at Telia, said that the company will continue to develop the platform with useful features for businesses, whilst new partnerships are also upcoming, adding to Telia Sense’s existing collaborations with EasyPark, Viking, Bilprovningen, Bilia and others. Telia Sense was launched in Sweden for private car owners in November 2016, and in Denmark earlier this year.

Sierra Wireless has claimed the ‘world first’ launch of a global LTE-Advanced Pro cellular IoT module, the AirPrime EM75 Series, which connects to 4G (including LTE-LAA unlicensed band) networks, CBRS private networks and public safety networks (including FirstNet band 14 in the US and European bands 20/28 LTE networks) on a single module with integrated GNSS and eUICC capability. Sierra claims the new module supports 200% faster uplink speed than any other commercial solution, highlighting various use cases that require fast uplink/downlink, including: HD video streaming, AR/VR, industrial, public safety and military applications, via devices such as laptops, routers, hotspots, drones, robots, interactive digital billboards, vehicles and industrial machinery.

China’s vice minister for Industry and Information Technology, Luo Wen, says that the value of the country’s IoT industry exceeded CNY930 billion (USD142 billion) in 2016, up more than fivefold from CNY170 billion in 2009. Speaking at the World Internet of Things conference near Shanghai, the official stated that China could take the lead in certain IoT sub-sectors, given its huge domestic market, a ‘complete industrial chain’ and high level of government support. Whilst various IoT tech centres and labs are being established in China, the country is looking to push IoT development ahead in fields including agriculture, healthcare, environmental protection and logistics, Wen added.

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