Huawei buys UK’s Neul to boost IoT smarts

Huawei firms up its plans for a bigger push into managed IoT for mobile network operators.

Chinese networking giant Huawei has acquired the UK's Neul, a pioneer in using thin slices of spectrum that wants to make the 'internet of things' (IoT) profitable and manageable for mobile network operators.

The acquisition, for a reported $25m, will accelerate Huawei's presence in the growing market for IoT, giving it Neul's R&D centre in Cambridge, UK, as well as technology being used in smart city trials within the UK.

Neul has been involved in several trial projects in the UK using its white-space equipment for long-range wireless networks to support low-powered, low-data devices that may one day underpin smart cities.

Earlier this year, Neul and BT agreed to deploy a network of base stations in Milton Keynes using Neul hardware built on Weightless, a specification driven by ARM, Neul, Cable&Wireless, and CSR for wide-area networking that's better suited to low-powered data-sipping devices than traditional mobile network technologies such as 3G, CDMA, and LTE.

The Milton Keynes deployment was envisioned to support things such as networked bins and parking space monitors. Neul and BT had previously locked in an agreement to use Neul's IoT-as-a-service platform in addition to Neul's base stations for the roll out.

Investors that have bet around $18m on the UK IoT startup since 2011 include DFJesprit, IQ Capital, Cambridge Angels, and Mitsui Global.

While Huawei hasn't disclosed the value of the acquisition, the UK's BusinessWeekly reported on Friday that the deal was worth $25m and followed efforts by Neul to find a major strategic investor.

The acquisition will put Huawei at the centre of Weightless SIG, the Cambridge-based group responsible for driving two Weightless standards — one for TV white-spaces, and another under development for unlicensed and licensed spectrum within the 800-900MHz range.

Huawei, which has dabbled in IoT projects in Europe, believes the Neul gives it "ground-breaking" technologies in IoT.

"The acquisition of Neul gives Huawei improved access to the growing and exciting market in the IoT, which enables advanced connectivity of machines, devices, systems, and services under a variety of applications. Neul is a leading R&D and competence centre, based in Cambridge, UK, providing end-to-end solutions including chipset and platform, base-station and cloud management systems," the company said in a statement.

"Huawei is delighted to have acquired Neul and its ground-breaking innovations in the IoT. Huawei has no doubt that the IoT market offers huge scope to expand and to deliver important new services and solutions to our customers."

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