Vodafone and Huawei complete first commercial trial of pre-standard NB-IoT

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Vodafone and Huawei have completed the first commercial trial of pre-standard narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) technology in Spain.

The pair said they had successfully integrated NB-IoT technology into Vodafone’s existing mobile network in Spain and sent a pre-standard NB-IoT message to a module, by Swiss IoT manufacturer u-blox, installed inside a water meter.

Earlier this month, the 3GPP, the telecoms industry standards body, secured a pathway towards establishing NB-IoT as the mobile access technology for low-power wide area (LPWA) networks of the type that will underpin the next phase of the IoT.

Vodafone has been pushing the technology hard. Ahead of the 3GPP session in the US, it chaired a preparatory event to lay the foundations for a new industry forum to develop and deploy NB-IoT technology.

At a European Communications/Mobile Europe conference earlier this month, it said it expects to launch NB-IoT by the end of 2016.

“Vodafone has led the development of NB-IoT, the LPWA technology in licensed spectrum that has gained huge industry support. The completion of this first commercial trial with our partners is further evidence of that,” said Matt Beal, Director of Innovation and Architecture at Vodafone Group.

The mobile industry is backing NB-IoT to provide mobile access for IoT devices that require minimal upfront cost and upkeep, as well as long range in remote areas and high penetration in inaccessible ones.

Its low power consumption promises a battery life of up to 10 years in IoT devices. The industry has also touted the security aspects of running IoT services in licensed spectrum on the grounds cellular is less susceptible to interference and can provide a better guarantee of service.

LPWA devices will contribute to the types of massive sensor networks that stand to define much of the functionality of the IoT. The industry views it as the answer for enterprise applications in areas such as utility meters, sensor monitoring and asset-tracking.

Industry standards for NB-IoT will be set in early 2016 with Release-13 from 3GPP.

“Once commercialised, NB-IoT will provide tangible benefits for our enterprise customers, principally making it feasible to connect more devices to IoT,” said Beal.