IoT Time: M2M/Internet of Things weekly digest

28 Jun 2017

Global mobile association the GSMA has declared that its Mobile IoT Initiative has ‘taken off’, citing the recent commercial rollouts of Low Power, Wide Area (LPWA) solutions by some of the world’s largest cellcos including AT&T, China Mobile, China Unicom, China Telecom, Deutsche Telekom (DT), Verizon and Vodafone. The GSMA Mobile IoT Initiative aims to support the industry to deliver commercial LPWA solutions in licensed spectrum, and is currently backed by 74 mobile operators, device makers and chipset, module and infrastructure companies worldwide. The GSMA highlighted that China Mobile and China Unicom have launched NB-IoT across several key cities, with China Telecom launching NB-IoT networks ‘across the country’, whilst Vodafone has launched NB-IoT in Spain and the Netherlands, and DT has launched in several cities in Germany and ‘nationwide’ in the Netherlands. AT&T and Verizon have implemented US-wide launches of LTE-M technology. The GSMA also reported that its Mobile IoT Innovators programme, which is designed to encourage the development of new LPWA solutions, now has 546 member companies worldwide, currently developing new IoT solutions including smart parking, pet tracking, asset tracking and smart agriculture amongst many others; 215 of these companies are based in China (nearly 40%).

Among the list of NB-IoT operators lauded by the GSMA, DT’s German arm Telekom Deutschland on Monday (26 June 2017) introduced its first ‘off-the-shelf’ commercial NB-IoT service packages. The ‘NB-IoT Access’ entry-level package costs from EUR199 (USD223.75) including six-month activation of up to 25 M2M SIM cards with 500kB data per SIM. The ‘NB-IoT Access & Cloud of Things’ package cost from EUR299 including direct access to DT’s Cloud of Things platform for device and data management. In addition, DT has upgraded its M2M web service portal for business customers to manage SIMs online, offering new sorting and billing functions and API interfaces for integrating the data with the customer’s own systems.

China Telecom and Telenor Connexion have launched a common IoT/M2M platform to serve each other’s multinational enterprise customers on their collective networks in Europe and Asia, via integration of their cross-border eUICC (eSIM) platforms. China Telecom also sealed a similar multinational IoT/M2M eUICC agreement with Orange Business Services covering Asian, European and African markets.

In a related international agreement, China Mobile and Japan’s NTT DOCOMO are launching a multi-vendor IoT eSIM system based on the GSMA’s Remote Provisioning Architecture for Embedded UICC3.1 (GSMAv3.1) standard, enabling interoperability between the two operators’ different vendor platforms. For instance, corporate customers’ connected products exported from Japan to China – such as automobiles, industrial equipment and agricultural machines – can switch from a Japanese to a Chinese network carrier without replacing SIMs.

Things Mobile, which calls itself the world’s first global mobile IoT operator, has also this week unveiled its IoT e-SIM, offering multi-network connectivity, ‘very low’ connection costs, no management fees and coverage currently spanning 250 networks in 165 countries.

Indian Ocean Connect (IO Connect) in partnership with Sigfox has backed the launch of a new LPWA IoT network service operator, Mascareignes Connect, in Mauritius, aiming to serve companies in various sectors including industrial, agriculture, health, water management and logistics. Roger Bigaignon, CEO of Mascareignes Connect, said the company expects to reach 92% of the population and cover 80% of the country’s territory by August 2017. Christophe Fourtet, co-founder of Sigfox, said: ‘Our ambition is to cover the entire globe. We proceed in an orderly manner starting with dynamic territories, with potential, strongly inhabited and developed. Mauritius is part of these territories, in the same way as Reunion. Our local partner in Reunion was IO Connect; it was natural to continue with them.’

IoT specialist operator UnaBiz has secured an IoT network operating licence in Taiwan from the National Communications Commission (NCC), and says it is on track to deploy a nationwide network utilising unlicensed spectrum and Sigfox LPWA technology. In 2017 UnaBiz will focus on deploying the Sigfox IoT network in six main municipalities – Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung – covering over 80% of the population, whilst subsequently expanding across rural and urban areas, targeting 95% population coverage in 2018. UnaBiz adds that it will collaborate with industry partners, academic institutions and government agencies to help Taiwan address global IoT market potential. Sigfox networks are currently present in 32 countries worldwide, with a target of reaching 60 countries by 2018.

The LoRa Alliance, the global association of companies backing the LoRaWAN LPWA IoT standard, has reached the milestone of 500 ecosystem members in just over two years. 42 LoRaWAN networks were publicly announced during the past year (a 3.5x increase on the previous year), whilst there are ‘over 250’ ongoing LoRaWAN trials and city deployments, a press releases says. Geoff Mulligan, chairman of the LoRa Alliance, declared: ‘The LoRaWAN protocol is being adopted so quickly because it provides an open standard with ten-plus years of node battery operation, a range of ten-plus kilometres and an average node bill of materials of less than USD10. We continue to build on these advantages by actively working to extend the global reach of our IoT ecosystem, and by quickly responding to market changes to increase network capabilities.’

NetComm Wireless and Telefonica have signed an IoT device supply agreement for the US and Europe. Philip Micallef, general manager of M2M at NetComm Wireless, said: ‘We are pleased to join Telefonica’s partner ecosystem as the need for smart remote communication between business assets and machines becomes ever more critical for enterprises globally.’ Under the agreement, NetComm Wireless will supply a range of 3G M2M/IoT devices including the 3G M2M Router Series (NTC-6200) and its 3G Serial Modem (NTC-3000). Telefonica continues to extend its IoT reach ‘to over 2,500 enterprises worldwide’, a press release stated.

Satellite operator Thuraya has launched its Thuraya IP M2M Service to support high volume, high throughput M2M applications, powered by its real-time, two-way IP network (with speeds of up to 444kbps), a ‘state-of-the-art’ Remote Terminal Management (RTM) platform and the Thuraya IP+ terminal.

Estonia’s Connected Baltics, which operates a Sigfox LPWA IoT network, has inked a strategic partnership agreement with Buildit Hardware Accelerator (BHA) aimed at supporting and speeding up start-up company development to create new services based on Sigfox technology.

Japanese operator KDDI (au) is planning to roll out a commercial LPWA IoT network using licensed cellular standards within its next fiscal year, Takuya Sawada, general manager for product and service strategy, has confirmed. He told the GSMA Global Mobile IoT Summit that KDDI is currently weighing up its options between LTE-M and NB-IoT technology, saying: ‘We have to think about emerging technologies and IoT is one of the hottest topics, both in our industry and in Japan. There are so many options we have to choose from and some are very difficult for us to determine.’ He added the company was still in discussions with enterprise customers, many of which have their own preference towards either LTE-M or NB-IoT.

Finally, in reindeer news, Finland’s Digita has piloted a herd monitoring project in Palojarvi district using GPS tracking over its IoT network, which utilises Digita’s wireless towers and LoRaWAN technology, enabling herders to find lost animals. Plans are also afoot (or ahoof?) to launch an application to warn motorists of loose deer. There are around 5,000 reindeer in the Palojarvi area, with around 179 herders. Digita, which has diversified its services from its core broadcasting transmission network operations, owns a LoRa network covering 85% of the Finnish population and approximately 95% of companies across the country, it claims.

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