Vodafone NZ to deploy narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) network

Vodafone NZ has announced plans to upgrade its mobile network to support NB-IoT

Vodafone NZ has announced plans to upgrade its mobile network to support NB-IoT, a recently standardised variant of cellular technology designed to enable mobile networks to support IoT applications.

As such it has been designed to support devices that can be simple, and therefore cheap and that send small amounts of data at low power enabling them to operate for as long as 15 years on a small battery.

Vodafone tested NB-IoT on its network with its technology partner Nokia in September 2016. It says the next step is to pilot the technology with a select group of business customers in late 2017, before a network roll out in early 2018.

It has named one of these customers as road toll charging technology company EROAD. CEO Steven Newman said that, because NB-IoT was a global standard, products developed in New Zealand could be made compatible in multiple global markets.

Baird continued: “IoT is approaching a tipping point and it’s starting to transform the way we live our lives and run our businesses. Vodafone is a global leader in this space and we want to help more Kiwi businesses take advantage of these exciting opportunities.”

Vodafone’s NB-IoT announcement follows release last week by the NZ IoT Alliance of its report estimating a $2.2 billion dollar IoT market opportunity for New Zealand industries over the next 10 years.

The Alliance has followed its initial announcement with a string of press releases based on the report saying, amongst other things that:

  • within three years 100 percent of all effective IoT efforts will be supported by cognitive or artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities;
  • agri-business as one of the best opportunities to use the internet of things (IoT) for economic advantage in New Zealand;
  • cities will become safer and more desirable to live in when the internet of things (IoT) takes hold.

In addition to NB-IoT New Zealand is already getting a nationwide low-powered wide area networks designed of IoT using the proprietary Sigfox technology and Kotahinet is rolling out a LoRaWAN network. Both operate in unlicensed spectrum. Both these technologies are being deployed globally, so Newman’s comments about overseas compatibility would apply.

There is much debate about the relative merits of these ant other wireless IoT technologies, and the use cases to which each is best suited. Vodafone technology director, Tony Baird, said: “There are many IoT networks available now but we think NB-IoT is a premium technology choice that is worth waiting for. It is supported by over 40 of the world’s largest mobile operators plus many more suppliers and innovators that serve the majority of the global IoT market.” 

Following comments made in an earlier Computerworld article about the various IoT wireless technologies, Thinxtra, the New Zealand licensee of the Sigfox technology provided us this infographic showing its view of the relative merits, and applications of these different technologies.