Vodacom recently launched its Narrowband IoT network in partnership with Huawei.
The network is compliant with 3rd-Generation Partnership Project NB-IoT specifications and provides long-distance communication with a low power overhead.
The Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) network runs on existing licensed 900MHz spectrum and Vodacom has set up its first live site at its headquarters in Midrand.
Vodacom has also launched a Narrowband IoT Laboratory, which allows customers and developers to create NB-IoT devices and test them in a live environment.
MyBroadband spoke to Executive Head of Vodacom IoT Solutions Tony Smallwood about the company’s NB-IoT network and its roll-out plans, detailed below.
Smallwood said the NB-IoT network functions within allocated LTE spectrum, can provide coverage over a large area, and will support a large number of connections.
Vodacom will leverage existing infrastructure to create NB-IoT base stations and will begin rolling out sites for the network from August 2017.
Unlike other LPWA networks, NB-IoT uses licensed spectrum bands and is not significantly affected by interference.
The network also supports both uplink and downlink communication with relatively high bandwidth compared to other networks.
A major application of the NB-IoT network is the implementation of long-lifespan smart devices like water or power meters, which can last for decades on battery power while communicating with the IoT network.
Smallwood said the cost of NB-IoT-compatible devices is expected to decrease as adoption and mass production ramp up, following the wider availability of the network.
Vodacom said its Narrowband IoT Laboratory allows developers to book space and time in the venue to develop NB-IoT devices and test their equipment.
Smallwood said Vodacom aims to stimulate the development of LPWA use cases and work with customers, OEMs, and developers to create network-compatible devices.
He said NB-IoT modules are projected to be more price-effective than 2G or 3G modems, and as the ecosystem develops their price point will decrease.
Advantages of the network include support for a high density of devices per base station, and large volumes of compatible units can be rolled out as infrastructure is developed.
Devices used on the network will also include SIM card authentication, improving security over other LPWA networks without adding a substantial performance overhead.
Smallwood said the creation of the NB-IoT LPWA network is part of Vodacom’s strategic focus to improve customer experience by connecting more devices and making a positive impact on the socioeconomic environment.