Vodafone, Huawei open NB-IoT Lab – will others follow suit?
Vodafone, Huawei open NB-IoT Lab – will others follow suit?
Vodafone, Huawei open NB-IoT Lab – will others follow suit?

Vodafone, Huawei open NB-IoT Lab – will others follow suit?

Huawei and Vodafone have teamed up to launch a lab dedicated to developing products and applications for Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) technology.

The lab is based at Vodafone’s UK headquarters in Berkshire, and will function as an environment where developers and manufacturers can test narrowband IoT (NB-IoT).

They’ll work alongside Huawei and Vodafone on exploring the potential of the technology, including developments such as network solution verification, new application innovation, device integration and product compliance certification.

Huawei claims that this is the first lab of its kind in the world and has plans to open six more over the coming months. Both companies expect the first NB-IoT devices to launch at the end of 2016 and the start of 2017.

What is NB-IoT?

Narrowband technology allows data to be carried in limited, narrow frequency bands, providing improved network coverage for IoT tech, a large number of connections and sustainable power consumption.

It’s seen by many in the industry as the best way to create low IoT data applications and to work with low-power wide area networks (LP-WANS), which are expected to become a pivotal part of billions of connected devices by 2020.

Related: Narrowband IoT on track for launch this year

Progress is being made

Luke Ibbetson, Vodafone group R&D director and chairman of the GSMA NB-IoT Forum, believes that the future is vibrant for the NB-IoT ecosystem and that the industry has been making progress.

He said: “As one of the founding members of the GSMA NB-IoT forum, we’re delighted that the first lab is up and running. Over the past twelve months we’ve made significant progress establishing industry standards for the technology and the new labs will be critical to the next phase of development, which is to build a vibrant NB-IoT ecosystem.”

Lab is crucial

David Wang, president of wireless product line at Huawei, sees this lab as crucial in the development and promotion of NB-IoT globally and points out successful trials

“With our decade-long strategic partnership with Vodafone, the creation of this lab is another important milestone in our long term relationship. Working with Vodafone, we have accelerated standardization of the technology and carried out successful pre-commercial trials. This facility will be crucial in supporting the deployment of NB-IoT globally and contribute to the promotion of its ecosystem,” he said.

More tests taking place

Graham Trickey, head of the Connected Living Programme at GSMA, is also confident that this technology has a strong future – with more pilots taking place across the world. He said his organisation is keen to aid the tech’s commercial future.

“The GSMA’s Mobile IoT initiative has been instrumental in aligning the industry behind three complementary technologies in NB-IoT, Extended Coverage GSM For IoT (EC-GSM-IoT) and Cat-M that will underpin a diverse range of solutions in the burgeoning LPWA market,” he said.

“There are already a number of pilots taking place around the world and we welcome the work of the GSMA NB-IoT Forum that will help to accelerate the availability of commercial solutions in licensed spectrum.”

Narrowband offers many opportunities

Richard H Harris, a telecoms expert and CEO of tech firm Ensygnia, says companies should consider narrowband due to its ability to handle delayed data at a low cost among other benefits.

Speaking to Internet of Business, he said: “The key considerations for narrow band IoT are the ability to handle a massive number of low throughput devices, which can handle delayed data and at ultra-low device cost with low power to provide usable indoor connectivity.

“The benefits to consumer should be easier interactions, transactions and management of their ever increasingly busy lives. The news that Huawei and Vodafone have set up a lab has to be good news for the industry.”
Narrowband isn’t without its obstacles, though. Harris added: “The challenge is going to be making interactions meaningful, relevant and compelling to the consumer.  This is what we focus on at Ensygnia.  After all, unless you’re a Red Dwarf fan, the number of interactions you want with your toaster are likely to be limited.”

Related: Vodafone and Huawei complete commercial trial of Narrowband IoT