Vodafone and Huawei continue NB-IoT development as standardisation of common LPWA technology nears
Vodafone and Huawei say they have completed the first commercial trial of pre-standard Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) technology.
NB-IoT is a proposed standard for Low Power Wide Area (LPWA), which makes it more efficient to connect devices that require long battery life or are in hard to reach areas using existing cellular networks.
It is claimed NB-IoT is able to provide a battery life of ten years, costs $5 per module to deploy and has scalability, while at the same time providing the range of a cellular network. Many IoT devices are expected to be deployed away from mains electricity and it is simply not feasible or cost-efficient for the battery to be replaced frequently.
This particular test was conducted in Spain, where a message via Vodafone’s network was sent to a u-blox module installed in a water meter. Vodafone says the benefit not having to touch an IoT device for a decade, makes NB-IoT an attractive proposition.
“Vodafone has led the development of NB-IoT, the LPWA technology in licensed spectrum that has gained huge industry support,” said Matt Beal, director of innovation and architecture at the Vodafone Group. “The completion of this first commercial trial with our partners is further evidence of that. Once commercialised, NB-IoT will provide tangible benefits for our enterprise customers, principally making it feasible to connect more devices to IoT.”
Vodafone has previously admitted its frustration at the lack of progress in finalising the NB-IoT standard, arguing that without a common LPWA system, the mobile industry would only be able to serve 10-15 percent of the potential market.
“It’s an opportunity that we think is absolutely purpose fit for operators,” Luke Ibbetson, Vodafone’s head of research and development told the Huawei Mobile Broadband Forum in Hong Kong last month. “But we’re under pressure because we quite frankly don’t have a solution in the right shape. We’re having to turn down perfectly good customers.
“For once we’re not looking for the finest engineering solution, we’re looking for the right one for the market at the right cost. We’re encouraged 3GPP is on the path to standardisation and we will have a flavour of the technology by the end of December, [but] we’re close to losing patience.”
The company’s frustrations are echoed by Huawei, which says mobile faces threats from the likes of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and SIGFOX in the Internet of Things arena, and believes the fact the industry is close to securing a standard is a “big victory.”
“We fought for two years and a lot of people tried to postpone [the NB-IoT) schedule,” David Wang, president of Huawei’s wireless networking business unit told the same event. “I don’t know the reason [why].
“Huawei will spare no effort to push this NB-IoT standardisation process,” added Wang. “We are working very hard and our target is mid-2016 to make this solution ready.”
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