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M2M Monthly: a guide to recent machine-to-machine and IoT developments

10 Nov 2016

T-Mobile Netherlands launched Europe’s first commercial Narrow Band Internet of Things (NB-IoT) end-to-end system late last month using 900MHz spectrum. Initially available in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Eindhoven and around Schiphol airport, the network will be expanded on a nationwide basis during the course of 2017. Running in parallel, parent company Deutsche Telekom (DT) switched on a Huawei-built NB-IoT network in Bonn, Germany. The latter also included the first NB-IoT application, a fully up-and-running smart parking system. Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, Chief Technology Officer at Deutsche Telekom, commented: ‘With the implementation of the first standardised Narrowband IoT network in not one, but already two of Deutsche Telekom’s markets, we have achieved an important milestone on the road to a full, Europe-wide commercial rollout of NB IoT-based solutions.’

The dual launch meant that T-Mobile effectively stole Vodafone Group’s thunder; just days earlier the UK telecoms giant said it would launch its first NB-IoT networks in Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and Spain in the first quarter of 2017, aiming for a ‘world’s first’. Vodafone completed its first NB-IoT trial with Huawei in Madrid in September this year, using a 4G base station supporting NB-IoT technology and 800MHz spectrum. By 2020, Vodafone Group aims to have all of its LTE sites supporting NB-IoT technology.

Finnish vendor Nokia has announced that it has conducted a trial using NB-IoT technology on domestic operator Sonera’s commercial 4G network, in a bid to accelerate the creation of an IoT ecosystem, and provide support for the ever-growing number of IoT-connected devices. During the trial, Nokia implemented NB-IoT technology to communicate information on temperature, humidity and air pressure over Sonera’s LTE network in the Finnish capital, Helsinki. The companies also connected a roaming device over the commercial network using NB-IoT technology. The network used Nokia base station technology operating in the 800MHz frequency band to maximise coverage and connect to devices in harder to reach locations.

Elsewhere, Nokia and Russian wireless giant Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) have completed testing of NB-IoT technology on MTS’ LTE-1800 network in Moscow. The LTE network segment used for the test included a virtualised core and cloud platform for the management of IoT devices, as well as open interfaces for user applications. MTS said the system will enable users to automate a broad range of production and business processes supported in the operator’s existing machine-to-machine (M2M) product portfolio, and it plans to start marketing NB-IoT-based solutions to its corporate customers in the first half of 2017.

Chinese vendor Huawei has confirmed that it recently completed a ‘system function and performance verification test’ for the NB-IoT standard at the 5G Joint Innovation Lab of China Mobile. Huawei, which noted that the tests were ‘authoritative and rigorous’ claims that it was the first company to complete such verification among China Mobile’s partners. After the successful lab verification, China Mobile and Huawei jointly deployed a 3GPP-compliant NB-IoT network for the smart parking service at the outfield of the 2016 World Internet of Things Exposition (WIOT) held in Wuxi, China.

In South Africa, MTN and Huawei have jointly launched a Smart Water Metering initiative, which they claim represents the first NB-IoT solution in Africa. The solution is designed to help MTN develop its NB-IoT services and explore new markets. The Smart Water Metering service is being demonstrated at the AfricaCom 2016 conference in Cape Town this month, and will be launched on a commercial basis in 2017. Not to be outdone, South African rival Vodacom Group has also started work on its NB-IoT build, with commercial deployment also expected in 2017.

Also in South Africa, wholesale network operator Comsol is undertaking a national deployment of a LoRaWAN network under the ‘Comsol IoT’ banner, utilising Actility’s carrier-grade ‘ThingPark’ open platform and implemented on the back of the carrier’s ZAR1.5 billion (USD111 million) Open Access Layer 2 National network investment. The LoRaWAN network will be available for sensor service termination by February 2017 in major metropolitan areas, offering low cost, long range, low power IoT connectivity, capable of supporting geolocation. Comsol is touting the initiative as the ‘largest IoT deployment in Africa’. Justin Colyn, Executive Head of IoT, Comsol, said in a media release: ‘Comsol IoT is the ideal solution for applications where power-constrained devices are distributed over large geographical areas. So in the case of water or electricity meters, or agricultural monitoring, to name a few, the network offers wide reach as well as power and cost savings.’

In South Korea KT and LG Uplus have unveiled a new nationwide NB-IoT partnership, positioning themselves directly against mobile market leader SK Telecom (SKT), which had previously thrown its weight behind the LoRaWAN platform, completing its own nationwide deployment of the latter access type in July this year. SKT reacted angrily to the news, claiming that the tie-up will ‘hurt the development of Korea’s IoT ecosystem’.

France’s National Frequency Agency (Agence Nationale des Frequences, ANFR) and telecoms watchdog the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Posts (Autorite de Regulation des Communications Electroniques et des Postes, Arcep) have published a summary of the recent public consultation regarding new opportunities for the use of the 862MHz-870MHz, 870MHz-876MHz and 915MHz-921MHz spectrum bands to meet the growing needs of the IoT sector. The consultation was launched on 3 June 2016, and received 33 contributions, the bulk of which demonstrated an interest in the newly proposed regulatory framework, and expressed enthusiasm for European harmonisation. The aforementioned spectrum resources are currently controlled by the Department of Defence.

Mobile satellite communications firm Inmarsat and UK-based Vodafone Group have announced a roaming agreement designed to enable international satellite and cellular roaming connectivity for the IoT sector. By delivering ubiquitous coverage and high network availability, even in extreme environmental conditions, satellite-powered IoT is designed to allow organisations to extend their services beyond terrestrial networks, where they have remote connectivity requirements, for example in the agri-tech, utilities, oil and gas and transportation sectors. Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat, commented: ‘This agreement marks a first for Inmarsat; enabling a mobile operator to utilise broadband roaming services on our global network.’

AT&T has switched on North America’s first LTE-M enabled commercial site in the San Francisco market to support the pilot of its LTE-M Low-Power Wide-Area network at the AT&T Labs in San Ramon. AT&T plans to make the technology widely available across its commercial network throughout 2017, noting that LTE-M will offer a unique combination of enhanced coverage and longer battery life with carrier-grade security for a new generation of industries and applications.

Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies have successfully executed network and device testing of data communications on Cat M1 with the MDM9206 modem, designed to support LTE Cat-M1 for IoT applications and services, utilising the 700MHz band. This commercial technical milestone was achieved through the successful interoperability testing of Qualcomm’s MDM9206 modem at Ericsson’s headquarters in Sweden and witnessed by executives from Australian operator Telstra.

SK Telecom (SKT) has become the second mobile operator to join the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), a global cross-industry group formed to develop intelligent transport services and autonomous driving technologies in September by Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, Qualcomm, Intel, Audi, BMW and Daimler. Alex Jinsung Choi, SKT’s CTO, stated: ‘I believe 5GAA will play a pivotal role in … creating new business opportunities for both the mobile telecommunications and automotive industries.’ Upon joining 5GAA as its first cellco member in October, UK giant Vodafone Group claimed to provide more connected car services than any other operator.

Telefonica Business Solutions has provided Greek telecoms operator Wind Hellas with its ‘Smart m2m’ solution, to help manage and control IoT communications. Developed and built with Telefonica’s own assets and resources, Smart m2m incorporates new advanced features including real time consumption monitoring, supervision and global tracking. According to the Spanish company, the solution also offers innovative fraud detection functionalities such as the ability to restrict communication between a list of given devices, whilst also providing flexible communication plans.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) telecoms group Etisalat has issued a White Paper in partnership with Cisco outlining its vision for IoT development – ‘Evolving the Service Provider Architecture for the IoT Era’ (see link) – providing a road map for how the service provider network will need to evolve to meet customers’ needs and adapt to the growing IoT market. ‘We believe that the IoT is vital for regional development and have made a commitment to build best-in-class IoT capabilities to bring to the market. The whitepaper in collaboration with Cisco is an initiative that is aligned with Etisalat’s 2020 technology vision,’ said Hatem Bamatraf, CTO at Etisalat. The White Paper identifies current and potential activities where IoT will have an impact, including healthcare, fitness and wellbeing, manufacturing, agriculture, utilities, extractive industries, surveillance, logistics, transportation, retail and finance, as well as new applications related to Smart Cities.

eir Business has deployed a Customer Management Platform (CMP) designed by UK-based MDS to allow small, medium and large enterprises to connect their IoT assets in the field. ‘IoT Connect’ is an M2M self-management portal that provides private network solutions and enables real-time, comprehensive data control. eir Business claims that it is currently the only operator in Ireland offering the IoT market such a scalable solution.

Orange Business Services has announced the worldwide launch of Datavenue, its IoT and data analytics modular offering. Datavenue is designed to help multinational and large national corporations seize the varied opportunities offered by the IoT revolution. Datavenue was first launched in France in 2015, and today Orange operates more than ten million active B2B ‘objects’ and processes 65 million items of technical data per minute.

Finally, Jersey-based JT has signed a partnership agreement with Copenhagen-based IoT software firm NeoConsult. The telco notes that it continues to grow its revenues outside of the Channel Islands through acquisition and partnership, adding that there are now over one million JT IoT SIM cards in circulation worldwide.

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