Vodafone to launch NB-IoT network in four European countries

Vodafone to launch NB-IoT network in four European countries

Vodafone to launch NB-IoT network in four European countries
Vodafone base station in Lotsenturm Thiessow auf Rügen, Germany

Plans for Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network to cover Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain, announced by Vodafone.

Vodafone has announced that it will launch what it claims are the world’s first live commercial NB-IoT networks in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain in early 2017.

It said that once testing is completed, it’s 4G base stations will receive a software upgrade to give it instant coverage across these networks.

The first four counties will be followed by others during next year with full coverage of Vodafone’s global network targeted by 2020.

Related: Narrowband IoT market to grow exponentially in the next five years

NB-IoT a “simpler, lower cost technology”

Erik Brenneis, group director of Internet of Things at Vodafone said that there is still a group of devices which require a simpler, lower cost network technology.

“That is where Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) networks will fit in to provide functions from sensor monitoring to asset tracking, connect millions of products. NB-IoT is expected to be the leading LPWA technology because it has strong industry support,” he said.

“NB-IoT operates in licensed spectrum and that is important to us at Vodafone because we need to deliver a high-quality experience to our customers. The alternative, using unlicensed spectrum, risks disruption to the signal from other technologies trying to use the same frequencies.”

A network battle

Tom Rebbeck, research director at Analysys Mason, told Internet of Business that the launch is a “smart move that will push the entire NB-IoT ‘ecosystem’.”

“By committing to this date, Vodafone has sent a strong message to its competitors, but also makes a strong commitment to other players in the value chain, from chipset designers to application developers. This announcement will encourage others to invest in NB-IoT, which will help all parts of the ecosystem.”

He added that the timetable was aggressive but probably not unrealistic.

“For most of its networks, Vodafone has said that the rollout will require just a software upgrade (i.e. no site visit is required). From its trials in Spain and elsewhere, Vodafone is also clearly satisfied with the performance of the technology. The issues it faces now are probably as much commercial (e.g. agreeing the licensing terms) as they are technical.”

“Vodafone will want its partners, and not just its own networks, to launch NB-IoT. Part of Vodafone’s success in winning major IoT contracts (e.g. GM, VW) using traditional cellular has been due to it offering seamless regional coverage. It will want to do the same with NB-IoT but this will depend on partner networks also investing in NB-IoT,” he added.

Vodafone completed the testing of an NB-IoT connected device on a commercial network. The firm connected a parking sensor buried in a parking space within Madrid’s Vodafone Plaza. An app was demonstrated that showed the parking scape occupied by a car and showed it was free when the car drove off.

Related: Narrowband IoT on a live network? Completed it, says Vodafone