Vodafone’s first Narrowband IoT (Nb-IoT) network is now live in Spain and could soon have the capability to connect 100 million more devices to the Internet of Things.
The operator has been one of the most vocal cheerleaders for Nb-IoT and had expressed its frustration at the lack of progress in finalising the standard before the process was completed in June 2016.
This was borne out of a belief that a single Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technology was essential for the mobile industry if cellular networks were to compete with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and other standards in connecting the IoT because of power consumption and cost issues.
However it has now made an Nb-IoT network live in Spain’s capital city Madrid and in Valencia, were Vodafone held its first trial of the standard. Before March 2017, the company promises Barcelona, Bilbao, Malaga and Seville will be connected, each hosting 1,000 sites capable of 100,000 connections each.
The long-range 800MHz band will be used so signals can penetrate indoors and underground, allowing devices such as utilities meters, fire alarms and parking monitors to be connected.
In a shot at other technologies like Wi-Fi which use unlicensed spectrum, Vodafone says its licensed airwaves minimise the threat of disruption and boost security.
Nb-IoT networks could also soon arrive in Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands and across Vodafone’s entire footprint by 2020. This is because Vodafone simply has to upgrade existing base stations to make them compatible.
But of course some IoT systems, such as those installed in remote parts of the world or at sea, will be beyond the reach of terrestrial networks. To fill in the gaps, Vodafone is looking to Inmarsat’s L-band satellite network.
It is claimed the agreement will serve industries such as agriculture, oil, gas and transportation with reliable communications, even in extreme weather.
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