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Midweek M2M: IoT and machine-to-machine developments

15 Feb 2017

US giant AT&T has announced the acceleration of its LTE-M Low-Power Wide-Area (LPWA) network deployment for IoT services, with ‘nationwide’ LTE-M availability in the US now scheduled for the second quarter of 2017, and the same level of coverage in Mexico by the end of the year. ‘Thanks to the success of our pilot [launched in October 2016], we’re on track to support LTE-M devices across our commercial network in the US and Mexico ahead of schedule,’ said Chris Penrose, President, Internet of Things Solutions, AT&T, adding: ‘We’re seeing real momentum for LTE-M that will let us connect more end points than ever before. And we can do it at a lower cost with superior performance and carrier-grade security.’ Kelly King, CEO, AT&T Mexico, added: ‘This is huge for our enterprise customers. It’s an important step to help accelerate the speed of business.’

Another US titan, Verizon is also rapidly developing its IoT network capabilities. Module maker NimbeLink demonstrated a live Category M1 (Cat M1) connection on the Verizon Wireless LTE network by connecting its device directly to Verizon’s ThingSpace platform at the recent IoT Evolution Expo in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. NimbeLink’s Brandon Hart, director of technical business development, said: ‘It’s an industry first. People like to talk about how M1 is coming, but we were actually able to demonstrate it working.’ Many devices that currently use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to connect to LTE routers or gateways are expected to connect to the LTE network directly when they are equipped with Cat M1 modems.

Meanwhile, across the ‘pond’, LTE-for-IoT chip maker Sequans Communications and Telefonica have completed the first live LTE Cat M1 data call in Europe, at Telefonica´s Innovation Lab in Madrid, Spain, where an IoT device powered by Sequans’ Monarch LTE-M/NB-IoT chip communicated with an LTE base station over-the-air. A press release declared the event as ‘a major milestone for Telefonica on the way to a commercial LTE-M network launch, which will support cost-effective, widespread deployment of IoT.’

Mobile operator Beeline Kazakhstan is testing the Cisco Jasper platform for control and management of M2M SIMs, with a view to launching it commercially later this year. The ‘Control Centre’ platform offers a single management portal, accessed remotely by customers who can control various parameters of their SIMs/connections and receive real-time data on the state of connectivity.

Vodafone Iceland is planning to launch live NB-IoT network services in autumn this year following a pilot in partnership with Huawei, according to Icelandic newspaper Vidskiptabladid.

Satellite provider Inmarsat is claiming the first ‘global’ IoT network, powered by the Actility ThingPark LPWA platform, using LoRaWAN-based connectivity on the ground and satellite connectivity as the network backbone. The launch is the culmination of a partnership begun last year combining Inmarsat’s global L-band satellite connectivity platform with the ThingPark IoT management platform to deliver an integrated IoT solution linking connectivity, services and IoT devices from a single application and service management point. Actility CEO Mike Mulica said of the project: ‘Actility has worked on many large-scale nationwide LPWA network deployments, but this is bigger: we’re fantastically excited about being part of the first truly global IoT network in partnership with Inmarsat.’

Also looking globally, Nokia has announced the creation of a ‘worldwide IoT network grid’ (‘WING’) which it calls a ‘one-stop-shop, full service model offering seamless IoT connectivity across technologies and geographical borders to address the transport, health, utilities and safety markets.’ WING includes Nokia’s M2M Core (including Nokia Cloud Packet Core) as a managed service, and a ‘global services command centre’ built on the Nokia IMPACT IoT Platform. Nokia says WING will manage the IoT connectivity and services needs of a client’s assets, such as connected cars or freight containers, as they move around the globe, reducing the complexity for enterprises who would otherwise be required to work with multiple technology providers. Intelligent switching between cellular and non-cellular networks means that, for example, a shipping container linked by satellite in the ocean could switch to a cellular network connection near a port.

Jersey Telecom has launched its previously-announced LoRa network, partnering Stream Technologies, which provided its ‘IoT-X’ connectivity management platform, the Stream LoRaWAN network server, an expert support team and assistance with the network’s design and implementation. The network has twelve LoRa gateways deployed throughout the island.

SK Telecom of South Korea has provided its expertise to Thai state-owned operator CAT Telecom in a partnership to deploy a LoRa-based IoT network and services in Thailand. Under their agreement, the pair are deploying a pilot LoRa network in Bangkok and Phuket, with a view to launching pilot IoT services in April. Initial services will include tracking services for vehicles and tourists, with many applications to follow such as smart metering and smart lighting.

Iran’s ICT minister, Mahmoud Vaezi, says a special committee within his ministry has been working on IoT development for two years, as the country prepares to push forward a plan to implement smart cities and automated utilities. As quoted by PressTV, Vaezi emphasised that certain steps had also been devised for adopting requisite regulations for IoT in Iran, whilst an IoT pilot project in Tehran is operational, with preparations in motion for its large-scale expansion.

Also in the Middle East, UAE operator Du and the University of Sharjah are collaborating on 5G/IoT development as part of the UAE 5G Innovation Gate (U5GIG) programme. Du is building a UAE 5G and IoT Innovation Lab to test, validate and develop 5G and IoT use cases and services, to which university staff and students will have access, and experts from both Du and the university will jointly supervise related graduate and undergraduate research projects.

AT&T, IBM, Nokia, Palo Alto Networks, Symantec and Trustonic have joined forces to tackle IoT security challenges under the IoT Cybersecurity Alliance banner. The group will research and raise awareness of methods to better secure the IoT ecosystem. In the past three years AT&T says it has seen a 3,198% increase in attackers scanning for vulnerabilities in IoT devices, whilst 58% of companies surveyed by AT&T in 2016 said they were ‘not confident’ in the security of their IoT devices.

Finally, a statistical bulletin from French telecoms regulator Arcep showed that French network operators added 808,000 net new M2M SIM connections in the fourth quarter of 2016, bringing the active M2M SIM total on their networks to 11.737 million by end-December (up by 11.1% year-on-year). The total includes a tiny proportion of M2M SIMs in France’s Overseas Departments, just 26,000 at the year-end.

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