Vodafone Australia launches NB-IoT network

Vodafone's narrowband IoT network is now live in North Sydney, Port Melbourne, and Frankston, and will reach other areas of Melbourne, Sydney, and Canberra by the end of the year.

Vodafone Australia has announced launching its commercial narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network in Melbourne and Sydney.

The network is now live in Frankston, Victoria, where Vodafone has been running NB-IoT trials with Huawei for the past year, and at Vodafone's headquarters in North Sydney and Port Melbourne.

Vodafone will expand the network, which has been added to Vodafone's global IoT platform, across Melbourne's CBD and surrounding suburbs next month and then to some Sydney and Canberra suburbs in December, ahead of being rolled out to other cities during 2018.

As part of the network rollout, Vodafone said it upgraded half of its network sites and deployed software upgrades on its radio access and core networks.

According to Vodafone, tests saw "significantly greater coverage in terms of distance and depth" in comparison to its 3G and 4G networks, with the signal able to travel up to 30km and penetrate three double brick walls.

"NB-IoT offers customers a range of benefits including greater power efficiency, with devices able to run on batteries for 10 years or more on a single charge," Vodafone's executive GM of Enterprise Stuart Kelly said, pointing to machine-to-machine use cases.

"Australians will see a huge variety of products, services, and applications enabled by NB-IoT over the coming years as more carriers, vendors, utilities, and commercial organisations roll out and harness the benefits of this new way of connecting devices.

"We expect NB-IoT to be a key driver behind Australia's move towards becoming a smarter, more connected country."

Vodafone already has two new customers -- telemetry and control network solutions provider Metasphere and control point management system provider CCP Technologies -- trialling its NB-IoT network.

CCP, which uses sensors to monitor temperatures in food refrigeration environments, said it will use the network to expand its business across the nation and provide reliable solutions to its customers.

Vodafone had in May revealed to ZDNet that it would be launching live NB-IoT networks in Australia, New Zealand, and Germany during the second half of 2017 following the launch of its NB-IoT network across six cities in Spain in January.

The networks in New Zealand and Germany will be nationwide, Vodafone said, while Australia's will be rolled out in a state-by-state process.

Vodafone IoT global head of sales Tony Guerion told ZDNet at the time that Vodafone is also in talks with more than 15 companies in Spain, with much of the interest coming from utility companies.

The use of its NB-IoT labs -- such as those in Düsseldorf in Germany and Newbury in the United Kingdom -- are also driving interest, Vodafone said, with companies able to experience hands-on time with prototype devices.

In Australia, Kelly pointed to the trial with South East Water (SEW) in partnership with Huawei as the driving force behind NB-IoT takeup by other companies, utilities, and councils.

"We're working very closely with [SEW] and also with Huawei to continue those trials, and our aim is to move to a commercial trial [in the third quarter]," Kelly told ZDNet in May.

The main interest governments are showing in NB-IoT is related to smart cities applications, Kelly said, adding that this is tipped to progress rapidly over the next few years.

"We have a lot of bodies engaging with us and other organisations to understand the capability and what can be done. The real opportunity within a smart city -- it's not about turning on and off lights, it's about how can it improve the life of a citizen, how can you make their drive to work better, how can you improve the facilities for them and the services that you offer," Kelly explained.

In July, Vodafone NZ announced that it will be deploying its NB-IoT network across New Zealand early next year.

Vodafone NZ had initially tested NB-IoT networking in September last year in partnership with Nokia, and will next trial the technology with several business customers later in 2017 ahead of a full network rollout in early 2018.

According to Vodafone NZ technology director Tony Baird, NB-IoT, with its dedicated bandwidth and licensed spectrum, is the "premium" solution for connecting the tens of millions of IoT devices expected in the next few years.

"[NB-IoT] is supported by over 40 of the world's largest mobile operators, plus many more suppliers and innovators that serve the majority of the global IoT market," Baird said at the time.

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