Trial on IoT tech in Spain while efforts on standardisation continue
Huawei and Vodafone have completed one of the first commercial trials of pre-standard Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) technology.
Huawei’s technology was integrated into the Vodafone’s existing mobile network in Spain. The firm sent what it claims is the first pre-standard NB-IoT message to a module, provided by U-Blox, installed in a water meter. The firms said that a water meter was one of many examples that could be connected using NB-IoT.
NB-IoT is a LPWA technology that is claimed to offer low-cost, extended battery life, wide area coverage for objects requiring a long range mobile connection and low power consumption. It also promises up to ten years’ battery life and deep indoor penetration.
Devices should cost around $5 per unit and can be scaled massively and deployed over existing mobile networks, giving 2G an extended lease of life with IoT projects such as these. The devices can be deployed away from mains electricity in hard-to-reach areas with regular battery replacement may not always be feasible.
NB-IoT is viewed by the industry as the answer for enterprise applications in a range of different areas, from utility meters to sensor monitoring to asset-tracking.
The pre-standard NB-IoT commercial technology trial was the first of its kind to successfully implement narrowband communications using cellular bands. The deployment of NB-IoT in a licensed cellular spectrum means it is secure and less susceptible to interference and can provide a better guarantee of service.
“Vodafone has led the development of NB-IoT, the LPWA technology in licensed spectrum that has gained huge industry support,” said Matt Beal, director of innovation and architecture at the Vodafone Group. “The completion of this first commercial trial with our partners is further evidence of that. Once commercialised, NB-IoT will provide tangible benefits for our enterprise customers, principally making it feasible to connect more devices to IoT.”
Further trials and proof of concept deployments are planned by the companies.
Earlier this month, the GSMA announced that the mobile industry has agreed on technology standards for the emerging Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) market and these standards have been accepted by 3GPP.
The complementary technologies, which are set for 3GPP Release 13, are delivered through licensed spectrum and will cover all LPWA use cases, ensuring customer choice and helping the Internet of Things (IoT) market to flourish, according to the GSMA.
The GSMA will also host a 3GPP ad-hoc working meeting during 18-22 January in Budapest to work towards finalising the details of the agreed NB-IoT standards.
“This is an important step in enabling operators to deliver industry standard solutions by extending their existing high-quality managed networks, service platforms and world-class customer management capabilities,” said Alex Sinclair, acting director general and CTO of GSMA.
“The Low Power Wide Area market is a high-growth area of the Internet of Things and represents a huge opportunity in its development. A common and global vision will remove fragmentation, accelerate the availability of industry standard solutions and help the market to fulfil its potential.”