Up to 10 years battery life, deeper penetration of coverage and low cost services, are just some of the advantages of Vodafone’s NB-IoT rollout.

By Joe McDonough


Posted on October 11, 2017

Vodafone has announced it will launch its wireless network based on the emerging Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) technology in Australia from November.

NB-IoT is designed to be low-cost, have extended battery life and reach into remote areas.

The British multinational telecom company has already started the rollout of its commercial network in Frankston and Port Melbourne in Victoria, as well as North Sydney in NSW. Widespread coverage in both states is anticipated by the end of December, with the rest of the country to be rolled out next year.

Millions of devices will be connected to the Internet of Things as a result, and customers are expected to have applications running on the network next year.

NB-IoT trials a success

It follows Vodafone Hutchison Australia’s successful trials in Melbourne last year in partnership with Huawei.

In May last year, as the trials concluded, Vodafone chief technology officer Benoit Hanssen touted battery life of up to 10 years in connected devices, on top of a host of other improvements in efficiency and cost.

“Based on our testing in the Melbourne CBD, NB-IoT would be able to penetrate two to three double-brick walls, enabling connectivity of objects in underground carparks and basements,” Mr Hanssen said of the trials.

“We also achieved extended coverage during tests in suburban Melbourne, with distances of up to 30km.

“The benefits of NB-IoT include deeper and further coverage, up to 10 years’ battery life, increased scalability with up to 100,000 devices per cell and low cost of modem chipsets forecasted at less than $5.”

A wide range of applications

“As part of Vodafone Group we’ve evaluated a whole number of technologies and believe that NB-IoT excels in a number of areas that make it really significant for IoT,” said Easwaren Siva, Vodafone’s general manager of technology strategy.

Computerworld reported this morning that, according to Mr Siva, the standout features of NB-IoT are the ability to deploy ultra-low-power devices and deep signal penetration.

“The units actually do not need [an external] power source – they can live with batteries for more than 10 years.”

“So for applications where you’ve got no access to power — you’re underground, you’re in basements, you’re in remote locations, farms, a container sitting in warehouses — this is the type of technology you’d want to use to keep track of your assets.

For applications where you’ve got no access to power — you’re underground, you’re in basements, you’re in remote locations, farms, a container sitting in warehouses — this is the type of technology you’d want to use to keep track of your assets.

“The second element, deep penetration, is also extremely significant, because what we’re trying to do is get this signal right down to areas where standard 4G does not get to.”

He says a 2G machine-to-machine connection could typically penetrate one wall, whereas NB-IoT would allow penetration through two to three.

Customers can expect savings

Vodafone executive general manager of enterprise Stuart Kelly also touched on the savings customers can expect as a result of the new technology, when he spoke with the Australian Financial Review yesterday.

“One of the key benefits for organisations; costs for serving their needs will drop dramatically,” he said.

“Typically a customer would purchase a module, which comes with a chipset pre-installed. The module would then be placed into the modem,” Mr Kelly.

“Costs for modules vary according to a range of factors such as the supplier of the module, quantity needed, functionality required and timeframe in which the modules are needed. We work with customers individually when it comes to scoping out a solution, including pricing, that best suits their needs.

“We’ve got a lot of customers who’ve been talking to us for a while. It’s interesting to look at the pipeline that we have, it’s very large and very varied.”