Vodafone expecting "imminent" NB-IoT to be fastest-ever deployed tech

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Vodafone is expecting an "imminent" launch of the NB-IoT standard and said it believes the technology could be deployed more rapidly than any other it has ever worked with.

3GPP is hammering out specifications for the cellular tech, which will allow operators to use their own holdings to power the likes of smart city networks.

The UK-based operator has been one of the biggest advocates of the technology's potential, with pre-standard deployments already under way in Spain and Turkey. The operator has been testing smart parking networks in both countries with Huawei.

A separate trial has involved the connection of water meters to a cellular network by Vodafone Spain.

Luke Ibbetson, Director of Research and Development, Vodafone Group and Chair of the NB-IoT Forum, said these trials showed how the technology provides wide coverage, with long battery lives and low costs.

[Video - The tech and standards powering the IoT]

Further plans were in the pipeline for the coming months, he added, including a broader field trial with Spanish water company Aguas de Valencia.

"From a Vodafone perspective, a large proportion of our network hardware only requires a software upgrade to support the technology, which means the job of getting it ready for widespread NB-IoT deployments can be completed extremely quickly," Ibbetson said. "We estimate that 85 percent of our base stations will be able to support NB-IoT with a straight-forward software upgrade, however in some markets, such as the Netherlands, the figure rises to 95 percent.

"We’ve already started the process of upgrading our core and radio network and we expect to launch services across Vodafone markets during 2017. While there is still work to do, we believe it could be one of the fastest roll-outs of new technology that we’ve ever completed."

In the meantime, rivals to NB-IoT are ploughing ahead with deployments. Sigfox has recently expanded into its 19th region and Samsung has built a LoRa-based network in Korea.