Internet of Things gathers pace as infrastructure falls into place

Published on the 07/11/2017 | Written by Newsdesk


Spark internet of things network

Spark enhances network capability with new trial…

New Zealand’s largest telco is taking a dual-network approach which will provide more options for Internet of Things solutions. It has announced a trial for a nationwide LTE (long term evolution) IoT network, which sits alongside a LoRa low-power network.

There’s growing interest in the IoT as it moves from concept to commercial reality, with several operators (including Spark’s arch-rival Vodafone) trialling or operating the dedicated networks which allow low-cost sensors to connect without the SIM cards traditionally associated with mobile phones and other devices. These networks include the SigFox standard, operated in New Zealand by Kordia and Thinxtra, and a LoRaWAN network operated by KotahiNet (headed by former Kim Dotcom associate and one-time CEO of Dotcom’s Vikram Kumar).

Spark said the trials of an LTE Cat-M1 (M1) network are to get underway during November, ahead of delivering a commercial network early in 2018. The new capability will run on its core 4G network – LoRa and SigFox networks run on dedicated infrastructure.

In a statement, the company’s GM for IoT, Michael Stribling, said, “M1 is a secure, high-quality network, ideal where sensors and devices are transferring large amounts of data regularly and real-time access to that data is critical.”

That differs from, for example, LoRa and SigFox sensors, which are better suited to the asymmetrical transfer of small amounts of data.

“We’re working with customers on a broad range of use cases for M1, driven by its nationwide coverage and high performance. Great examples include vehicle telematics, smart metering, smart health devices and smart cities applications such as lighting and environmental monitoring,” added Stribling.

“We’re now close to having a market-ready service that’ll help bring those possibilities to life.”

Spark’s GM Networks, Colin Brown, said since announcing plans to be New Zealand’s enabler of IoT in July, the company has prepared the core network infrastructure that its M1 network will run on.

“M1 enables machines to communicate effectively over 4G wireless technology, so we’ve continued to build on the $383 million of network investment made over the past year, progressing both our 4G and future-focused 4.5G capabilities,” he noted.

“Customers will be able to leverage this to offer new and competitive products powered by a network that’s been purpose-built to support a wide range of uses – including mobile, wireless broadband and now IoT.”

Explaining its dual-network IoT strategy for IoT, the company said it is complementing M1 with a rollout of its low power LoRa network, which it has been testing in the industrial and agriculture markets. The LoRa network, it said, is readying for commercial launch and Spark added that the dual strategy is ‘consistent with the path of many European, Asian and US telecommunications companies’.

“Already as we talk with customers we can see different uses for different IoT networks emerging,” said Stribling, “so it makes sense to provide multiple networks to answer the multiple needs of New Zealand organisations.”

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