IoT Time: M2M/Internet of Things weekly digest

13 Feb 2020

US Cellular announced on 7 February 2020 the launch of its LTE-M IoT network, initially covering more than 90% of its cell sites nationwide, with plans to cover the entire LTE network in the second quarter of the year. The mobile operator describes the LTE-M network as ‘a reliable, secure and cost-effective way for businesses to connect large amounts of Internet of Things (IoT) devices in both urban and rural areas and hard-to-reach environments,’ giving examples of applications in areas such as fleet and asset management, tank monitoring, smart metering and others. US Cellular currently supports several LTE-M modules including the Telit ME910C1-WW, Telit ME910C1-NA, Quectel BG96 and u-blox SARA-R410M, with additional vendors coming soon.

O2 UK has announced the launch of the country’s first LTE-M network to augment its existing enterprise M2M/IoT services, with 50 LTE-M cell sites already live and national rollout planned for completion within the year. O2 says that the new low power, wide area (LPWA) IoT network will ‘enable businesses to support millions of connected devices, driving increased operational efficiencies and insights … with wide coverage for urban and rural areas, and lower latency … [enabling] businesses to share small amounts of data between assets at a low power consumption … with devices running for up to ten years … [reducing] device costs.’ Paul O’ Sullivan, Director of Wholesale & Commercial at O2, said: ‘Introducing a nationwide LTE-M network in 2020 will help unlock low-power use cases we haven’t seen before: from asset tracking and public sector applications like sensors on signage and traffic lights, right through to parking sensors and soil monitoring.’ O2 is now working on trials to bring new LTE-M applications to market including projects relating to smart cities, retail and healthcare. O2 currently provides national 2G/3G/4G M2M/IoT network coverage, offering its Smart Connect SIM management platform (including ‘off the shelf’ Smart Connect Express packages), linked to parent Telefonica’s global network. Notably, O2’s cellular network provides connectivity for the UK government’s Smart Metering initiative, covering over 23 million smart energy meter customers, while it also markets digital solutions for smart cities (O2 City Data Platform) and fleet vehicle telematics (O2 Smart Vehicle).

Brazil’s National Telecommunications Agency (Agencia Nacional de Telecomunicacoes, Anatel) reports that the country ended 2019 with 24.659 million M2M accounts. Mobile network operator (MNO) Telefonica Brasil (Vivo) continues to dominate the IoT space, claiming 10.099 million M2M subscriptions at end-2019, ahead of fellow MNOs Claro (7.740 million), TIM Brasil (3.643 million), Oi (2.071 million) and Algar Telecom (149,032). MVNOs continue to gain traction in the IoT sector, meanwhile, accounting for 957,043 M2M users at year-end, of which the majority (524,564) were attributed to B2B player Datora Mobile Telecomunicacoes (ARQIA). Next in line was newcomer J. Safra Telecomunicacoes, part of Sao Paulo-based Grupo Safra, which has interests in banking, real estate and agribusiness. Safra claimed 228,396 IoT users at end-December, just over a year after its commercial MVNO launch.

One specialist IoT solution provider in Brazil, Link, partners Claro, Vivo, Oi and Vodafone to offer M2M/broadband data plans to enterprise customers largely in the payments (POS terminals), vehicle/asset tracking, security, agribusiness and health sectors, utilising the Link Solution Manager platform for centralised control of SIMs and connected equipment. This month Link, owned by the American TNS (Transaction Network Services) Group, reached the milestone of one million devices connected since its launch in 2007.

Russia’s Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) has teamed up with BETAR to launch the first certified water meter in Russia with an integrated NB-IoT module. Devices will become the basis of an integrated system of digital monitoring of housing and communal services from MTS, ComNews reports. Production began in January 2020, and in the spring MTS will begin supplying devices as part of an integrated system with the platform for property management companies it launched in December 2019.

Ooredoo Qatar has launched an Industrial Metering solution for automatic monitoring of energy and water usage to optimise companies’ consumption, costs and safety. Ooredoo’s service enables organisations to access granular usage reports with breakdown by departments or building sections, while real-time data can also be used to detect critical events such as water leaks or power outages. The end-to-end cloud-based solution includes hardware, mobile IoT connectivity, applications and services based on the Ooredoo IoT Platform, hosted in the group’s Tier 3 Qatar data centre.

Kazakhtelecom (KT) has deployed its LoRaWAN-based IoT network in 14 cities of Kazakhstan for automatic remote utility meter reading. Cities covered include Nur-Sultan, Almaty, Shymkent, Aktobe, Aktau, Kostanay, Kyzylorda, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Pavlodar, Semey, Petropavlovsk, Taldykorgan, Altai and Akkol, with 37,000 apartment buildings – about 1.5 million households – now transmitting meter readings via the network. 342 base stations and 4,000 sensors have been deployed in the network so far.

Nokia and Japan’s SoftBank Corp have claimed a ‘world first’ in demonstrating that non-standalone 5G network technology can be used to commercially operate connected cars. SoftBank tested four use cases, including the transmission of location information of surrounding vehicles at intersections with poor visibility, the identification and notification processes for falling objects on the road as well as the transmission and secondary use of high-quality 4K video and images from in-vehicle cameras. John Harrington, Head of Nokia Japan, said: ‘These trials demonstrate that 5G technology can be successfully, safely and efficiently utilised in the connected car market.’

Elsewhere, Nokia is providing its Worldwide IoT Network Grid (WING) solution to Telecom Argentina to enable new enterprise IoT services in Argentina and across Latin America in various industry verticals including automotive, agriculture, utilities and finance. Nokia provides fully virtualised WING infrastructure as a managed service, with incremental services such as device management via the Nokia IMPACT platform.

Finally, US giant Verizon has certified the Sequans plug-and-play ‘Monarch Go’ IoT device, enabling connection to its LTE-M network in record time compared to prior modules. Embedded with an optimised LTE antenna and a pre-installed ThingSpace-enabled IoT SIM, Monarch Go can be activated online instantly by a customer selecting a ThingSpace IoT connectivity plan and paying via credit card. Monarch Go devices are available in the US via solutions provider Avnet, with global availability planned for later this year.

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