IoT Time: M2M/Internet of Things weekly digest

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26 Sep 2019

Vietnamese military-owned operator Viettel has launched an NB-IoT network covering 100% of Ho Chi Minh City via 1,000 base stations, it announced alongside the launch of a 5G network in the city. Viettel also expects to cover 100% of Vietnam’s capital Hanoi with NB-IoT by the end of the month ahead of a rollout in Da Nang, and intends to expand coverage to the whole country in the next two years. In its announcement Viettel highlighted a new focus on IoT applications such as smart cities, smart homes, environmental monitoring and remote electricity metering, in partnership with its main vendor partner for the project, Nokia. Hoang Son, Deputy General Director of Viettel Group, declared at a ceremony: ‘NB-IoT and 5G, officially put into operation today, are important core foundations for building a digital society and digital economy in Ho Chi Minh City in particular and the whole country in general.’

Sticking with Southeast Asia, Indonesia’s XL Axiata has commercially launched its NB-IoT network in 31 cities and districts via its XL Business Solutions division, IndoTelko reports. Aiming its new IoT services at the corporate and SME markets, XL has collaborated with equipment/platform/security system providers in a test phase and is also inviting developers, educational establishments and industrial players to conduct R&D on the NB-IoT network. XL is offering B2B starter packs at a promotional price (available until 31 December) of IDR15,000 (USD1.06) before tax for one year with 20MB data, and customers gain access to its FlexIoT device management platform. XL intends to expand the 900MHz NB-IoT network nationwide in due course, supported by its technology partners including Ericsson, Huawei, Cisco and others. Earlier this year XL launched pilot NB-IoT solutions for the transport and agriculture sectors, and it is preparing a smart building venture.

Crossing the ocean to Brazil, where Vivo Empresas – Telefonica Brasil’s B2B division – has expanded its NB-IoT and LTE-M networks to 400 cities around the country, covering 47% of the population and representing 60% of national GDP. In the coming months Vivo aims to reach all municipalities within its 4G LTE footprint with NB-IoT/LTE-M services. The NB-IoT (700MHz) network is best suited to static devices such as street lights, waste containers, manholes, alarms and utility meters, whilst the LTE-M (700MHz/1800MHz) network performs better in solutions requiring mobility such as tracking vehicles/animals/high value assets or mobile payment systems, and the twin IoT networks are integrated with Vivo’s own ‘Kite’ IoT device management platform. The Brazilian operator currently has more than nine million M2M/IoT connected devices across its cellular networks.

Heading north, US giant AT&T has forged reciprocal LTE-M IoT network roaming agreements with the three main nationwide Canadian mobile operators, Rogers, Bell and Telus, allowing business customers of all four networks access to LTE-M coverage across the US and Canada. Chris Penrose, president of Advanced Mobility & Enterprise Solutions at AT&T, said: ‘More and more of our enterprise customers are launching IoT applications across international boundaries. Having access to the first North American footprint for LTE-M through these roaming agreements will help them simplify deployments, scale their IoT plans, and put them on the path to 5G.’

Elsewhere, the LoRa Alliance and the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) have released a white paper on Wi-Fi & LoRaWAN Deployment Synergies (see link below), with input from mobile carriers, equipment manufacturers and advocates of both unlicensed connectivity technologies. The paper illustrates new business opportunities via merging Wi-Fi (traditionally supporting critical IoT) and LoRa (traditionally supporting low data-rate massive IoT), including: Smart Building/Hospitality (e.g. asset tracking and location services for indoor or near buildings, and on-demand streaming for devices with battery limitations); Residential Connectivity (e.g. LoRa picocells leveraging Wi-Fi backhaul to set-top boxes to create a ‘neighbourhood IoT network’ supporting new geolocation services while also serving as a communication backbone for demand-response services); and Automotive & Smart Transportation (e.g. hybrid location/video streaming use cases). The paper also outlines deployment models, frontend/backend integration and security processes. Input for the paper was provided by: BT, Boingo, BSG Wireless, Charter Communications, Connexin, Eleven-X, ER-Telecom, Orange, Tata Communications, Unity Media, Objenious, Semtech, Syniverse, Abeeway, Actility, BSG, Kerlink, Maxima Telecom, Microshare, Orbiwise, Senet, Siradel, Skyhook Multi-Tech, the Centre for Development of Telematics and Digital Catapult.

In Poland, Orange Polska says it now has 1.5 million M2M SIM cards active on its network, representing around 40% of all M2M connections in the country. Around one-third of the Orange cards are used in cars, while utility meters also make up a large percentage. Other IoT projects served by Orange include smart city schemes covering services such as street lighting and bike rentals, plus solutions for industry and agriculture.

Lastly this week, Eutelsat and Sigfox are partnering to launch 25 nano satellites to serve IoT applications under the ‘ELO’ project banner. Capacity reports that four satellites are set for launch in 2020-21 and the rest by 2022, at a cost of around EUR1 million per unit. Eutelsat CEO Rodolphe Belmer commented: ‘Our partnership with Sigfox enables worldwide coverage through the combination of satellite and terrestrial IoT. This relatively modest investment at group level, which is fully scalable, enables Eutelsat to access an additional potential growth lever in the context of its Connectivity strategy.’ Sigfox will integrate the global coverage provided by the new constellation into its existing range of IoT connectivity services. Sigfox has also recently completed an IoT network rollout via local operator SimpleCell in the Czech Republic (Czechia), with a two-year deployment resulting in 96% population coverage and 94% territorial footprint using unlicensed 868MHz frequency spectrum and 320 base stations. SimpleCell’s technology partner for building and managing the IoT network is T-Mobile, which provides its infrastructure for the location of base stations.

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