Midweek M2M: IoT and machine-to-machine developments

22 Mar 2017

More details have emerged of Indian operator Tata Communications’ LoRaWAN-based Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) IoT network rollout, as it signed a commercial agreement with IoT specialist Kerlink for the rapid deployment of ‘more than 10,000’ LoRaWAN ‘Wirnet iBTS Compact’ stations. Tata’s large-scale pilot LoRa network has been operational since June 2016, incorporating several hundred Kerlink Wirnet LoRa stations in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, and it is now in the process of extending coverage nationwide to Tier 1, 2, 3 and 4 cities across India, to cover ‘2,000 communities and over 400 million people’.

Also in South Asia, Mobitel – the mobile divison of Sri Lanka Telecom – has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ericsson designed to bring 5G IoT innovation to the island, ‘supporting the ambition to transform Sri Lanka into a digital and knowledge-based society, driving new and increased employment opportunities enabled by ICT ecosystem innovations’.

Vodafone Netherlands has conducted its first tests of NB-IoT technology in partnership with Ericsson using 800MHz radio spectrum, and will begin offering commercial NB-IoT services in May this year in five cities, with ‘nationwide’ coverage promised by the end of summer. Note that rival T-Mobile is already rolling out NB-IoT across the Netherlands, whilst KPN Netherlands currently offers nationwide LPWA IoT services via a LoRaWAN network, and a Sigfox LPWA IoT network is also available in the Netherlands via a country-exclusive partnership with Aerea (which itself has teamed up with cellcos including Tele2 Netherlands to offer their customers Sigfox-based services).

Speaking of the French LPWA pioneer, a Sigfox network has been launched in Slovakia by SimpleCell (the exclusivity holder for that country) which currently covers more than 30% of the population, aimed at M2M/IoT communication and data gathering via devices such as sensors or meters. SimpleCell is initially aiming to raise coverage in Bratislava, Kosice and Presov in partnership with terrestrial broadcast transmission provider Towercom, which is assisting with network construction, whilst targeting a 95%/90% population/territory footprint by September 2017 via around 175 base stations. Pilot Sigfox-based operations include utilities (water/energy) applications. Meanwhile, LoRaWAN networks are being tested by Slovak rivals Orange, Slovanet and Antik, whilst SimpleCell also operates a Sigfox network in the neighbouring Czech Republic in collaboration with T-Mobile.

Two big names never far from the IoT news, AT&T and IBM have partnered to test IoT analytics capabilities aiming to offer AT&T’s enterprise customers valuable insights from their industrial IoT data via AT&T M2X, Flow Designer, Control Center, IBM Watson IoT portfolio, IBM Watson Data Platform and IBM Machine Learning Service.

Sticking with the States, the LoRa Alliance has announced its first US-based LoRaWAN testing relationship with a wireless certification body, TUV Rheinland. Explaining the significance, Stefan Kischka at TUV Rheinland stated: ‘Device manufacturers rarely have access to the often complex technology needed to properly test their products before going to market. This latest announcement, in tandem with our new wireless IoT testing centre in Fremont, California, enables [TUV Rheinland] to become a one-stop-shop for wireless testing and certification services [in the US].’

At this week’s CeBIT exhibition in Germany, Chinese tech giant ZTE presented carrier-class IoT solutions developed in partnership with the China LoRa Application Alliance (CLAA), jointly showcasing an industrial grade IoT gateway and cloud-based core network, LoRa-specified chips/modules, and intelligent IoT terminals. The CLAA has built platforms for technology exchange, solution verification, market cooperation, resource interconnection and innovation incubation for Chinese LoRa applications, and has thus far certified over 80 products and released more than 50 application types. A new solution unveiled this week is ‘Smart Street 2.0’, the second generation of ZTE’s LPWA-based solution for city administrators evolving to smart city technology, using IoT, cloud computing and Big Data to integrate public services such as parking and lighting.

Telefonica Deutschland is presenting its NB-IoT development plans at CeBIT, having implemented a pilot 4.5G/NB-IoT network for its research project ‘Tech City’ with Huawei in Munich, putting the German operator in a position to roll out the technology this year. The company is tapping the Telefonica group’s recent experiences in Chile, where NB-IoT has already been tested extensively on smart water meters in a real-world setting.

Also on home turf at CeBIT, Deutsche Telekom’s (DT’s) demo zone at the event has been a hive of industrial IoT activity, but standing out among a swarm of IoT-related proposals from DT, one particular use-case created a real buzz: the German telco giant showed how NB-IoT can connect data from sensors in beehives to beekeepers’ smartphones as part of a solution to help identify the effects of Colony Collapse Disorder. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel was given a one-on-one demonstration from DT’s CEO Timotheus Hottges of the beehive monitoring set-up in an attempt to give the project wings.

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