Vodafone switches on commercial NB-IoT services

Launches NB-IoT network in parts of Melbourne and Sydney ahead of broader rollout
NB-IoT development and evaluation kits

NB-IoT development and evaluation kits

Vodafone has begun the progressive rollout of services based on the Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) standard.

Vodafone has launched NB-IoT commercial services in Frankston and Port Melbourne in Victoria, and in North Sydney in NSW.

“We’re planning to go beyond that into greater Melbourne and surrounding areas in November and then continuing the rollout with a focus on Sydney and Canberra,” Vodafone’s executive general manager of enterprise, Stuart Kelly, told Computerworld.

The rollout across the rest of Australia will be driven by the needs of Vodafone’s enterprise customers and the NB-IoT projects they are working on, Kelly told Computerworld.

“We have a very strong IoT customer base within Vodafone Australia and an awful lot of those guys are very eager to talk — and they have been talking to us — about NB-IoT,” Kelly said. “We’ll utilise the knowledge and the skillset of Vodafone Group to assist our customers to plan for their NB-IoT journey,” he said.

Vodafone last year partnered with Huawei for NB-IoT trials.

Kelly described the launch of the low power wide area network (LPWAN) technology as a “bit of a game changer”.

“As part of Vodafone Group we’ve evaluated a whole number of technologies and believe that NB-IoT excels in a number of areas that make it really significant for IoT,” said Easwaren Siva, Vodafone’s general manager of technology strategy.

The two standout features of NB-IoT are the ability to deploy ultra-low-power devices and deep signal penetration, he said.

“The units actually do not need [an external] power source – they can live with batteries for more than 10 years,” Siva told Computerworld.

“So for applications where you’ve got no access to power — you’re underground, you’re in basements, you’re in remote locations,  farms, a container sitting in warehouses — this is the type of technology you’d want to use to keep track of your assets.

“The second element, deep penetration, is also extremely significant, because what we’re trying to do is get this signal right down to areas where standard 4G does not get to.”

A 2G machine-to-machine connection could typically penetrate one wall, compared to two to three walls for NB-IoT, he said.

The Vodafone network uses spectrum in the 900MHz band.

“The 900 band is quite widely available and we are observing that a number of countries globally are using low band,” Siva said. “Using low band definitely comes with benefits for enhancing the deep penetration and our [mobile] sites are more or less ready and established with low-band capability.”

Vodafone says it has already upgraded about half of its network sites.

The telco said it as working with CCP Technologies and Metasphere on launching NB-IoT trials before the end of 2017.

Kelly said he expected Vodafone customers to have applications running on the network in 2018.

Optus and Telstra have both conducted NB-IoT trials. In August, Telstra enabled support for Cat M1 across its 4G network.