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Midweek M2M: IoT and machine-to-machine developments

15 Mar 2017

US satellite TV provider DISH Network will launch a NB-IoT network to meet rollout conditions for the 700MHz/AWS spectrum licences it purchased in 2008, it confirmed in a filing to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reported by Fierce Wireless. Licensing rules stipulate that DISH can opt for either deploying 40% active network coverage in its 700MHz ‘E-Block’ concession regions by the end of this month (as an interim stage towards a 70% March 2021 rollout deadline) or – seemingly more likely – aim for a 70% network build-out target by March 2020 with no interim deadline. Its AWS-4 bandwidth (part of the 1700MHz/2100MHz range) carries similar mandates. Having eschewed the idea of attempting to compete with 4G LTE network operators, DISH now says that it ‘plans to deploy a 5G-capable network, focused on supporting IoT – the first to be deployed in these bands anywhere in the world … This network will not be burdened with a requirement to be backward-compatible with legacy services.’

Finnish broadcasting network operator Digita claims to have achieved a target set last year of covering 95% of businesses in urban and rural areas of Finland with its LoRaWAN IoT network. Digita adds that it will continue to invest significantly in IoT infrastructure this year, offering solutions in the real estate (including smart metering), logistics and national/urban infrastructure (including smart city) sectors, amongst others.

Saudi Arabian cellco Mobily has inked an agreement with local IoT specialist Machines Talk Company to develop IoT-based smart solutions, fleet (transport)/logistics and asset management applications for both private and public sectors, via the Mobily Business division.

Costa Rican state-backed full-service telco and utility operator ICE is installing 158,000 smart electricity meters using IoT technology over the next three years for residential and business customers, under a USD13.6 million investment part-funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB); this year alone the scheme will see around 45,000 traditional meters replaced with smart devices.

In a similar vein, Russian mobile heavyweight MegaFon is testing electricity and water smart meters based on NB-IoT standards in partnership with China’s Huawei, other Russian cellcos and the Ministry of Construction. Commercial services are expected to launch this year.

Taiwan’s National Development Council (NDC) has formed a cross-industry alliance, Asia Silicon Valley Development Agency (ASVDA), to promote IoT in eight areas: manufacturing, agriculture, energy, commerce, home solutions, medical, transportation and logistics. ASVDA is already advising on 21 selected priority projects in developing technologies and commercial solutions, including cooperation with related existing central government-led projects, and coordinating with local governments on sites for field tests and trials, according to the NDC, which is also issuing requests for proposals (RFP) on smart city solutions at the end of this month.

The Russian Foundation on Development of Internet Initiatives has led a working group in drafting a Federation-wide roadmap for IoT in the agro-industrial sector, in a project initiated by the deputy prime minister and involving the participation of Mobile TeleSystems (MTS). The draft includes proposals aimed at simplifying and accelerating permissions for deployment of IoT base stations in rural and forest areas.

MTS has also recently revamped its M2M/IoT retail subscription tariff range, differentiating itself in the Russian market by offering one-year-in-advance payment for packages including low volumes of data e.g. 300MB internet traffic per month plus 30 minutes of calls and 30 SMS messages per connected device (such as motion sensors, automobile-fitted devices, video surveillance systems, watch-phones, alarms, smart home devices, etc). TDaily notes that for devices such as these, a relatively small data cap is sufficient, pointing out that, previously, subscribers were forced to either choose base rates with additional per-gigabyte/per-minute traffic costs, or take packages with excessive inclusive volumes (starting from 1GB a month with 200 call minutes). The report adds that an entry-level package previously cost RUB200 (USD3.38) to RUB300 per month, whereas a new ‘Smart Device’ subscription works out at RUB39 to RUB56 per month depending on the region. In January-February 2017 MTS reported that its retail smart device sales grew 3.5 times compared to the same period a year earlier, with the most popular consumer devices being smart-watches and fitness trackers.

Intel has continued its ‘drive’ into the connected car market with a USD15 billion agreed takeover of Israel-based Mobileye, which specialises in collision-avoidance sensors. Intel says it will combine Mobileye with its Automated Driving Group unit. Intel, which forecasts the market for vehicle systems, data and services to be worth USD70 billion by 2030, is also one of the founding members of the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA) industry group.

Also in vehicular news, in Hong Kong a ‘Smart Mobility Consortium’ on Cellular-Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technologies has been formed by telco HKT (part of PCCW), Huawei, the Hong Kong Applied Science & Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) and Qualcomm, aiming to ‘revolutionise the transportation sector’ in the Special Administrative Region. C-V2X technology operates through both commercial cellular infrastructure, as well as direct communications over the 5.9GHz band in Hong Kong. A C-V2X powered smart mobility system allows vehicles to connect to the cloud, but also enables vehicles to communicate with one another as well as with pedestrians, and to synchronise with infrastructure. The consortium aims to use C-V2X to introduce a series of Intelligent Transport Services (ITS) in Hong Kong including a warning mechanism for collision and control, assistance for cruise control and parking, and alert systems for speed and lane violations.

Vodafone Qatar has officially launched its Mobile Asset Tracking and Connected Cabinets solutions with partner Zelitron Innovative IoT Applications. Dimitris Flokos, Zelitron’s Business Development Director explained: ‘With Vodafone’s Mobile Asset Tracking Solution, customers will know exact location of their assets with complete visibility and control … whether they are delivery trucks or plant machinery, shipping containers or pallets … The Connected Cabinets solution will help customers optimise performance of their retail cabinets such as drinks fridges and freezers, that can report their location, operating conditions and stock levels in real time.’

Lastly, South African IoT platform developer IoT.nxt has raised ZAR100 million (USD7.6 million) to fund expansion into the UK and other European markets, to take advantage of the higher levels of IoT adoption in European countries compared to its home market, the company announced, although it added that South Africa is ‘rapidly catching up’.

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