Huawei opens NB-IoT lab in Australia

Huawei has opened a narrowband IoT lab at James Cook University in Queensland and provided funding for R&D, with the university to offer an IoT engineering degree.

Chinese technology giant Huawei has opened a narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) lab in Australia to provide research and development opportunities around applications, smart devices, and sensor networks.

The lab is situated within James Cook University in Cairns, Queensland, with Huawei kitting it out with IoT technology and giving the university funding for research. Its positioning within northern Australia will see it focus on smart applications for the reef, healthcare, and agriculture.

James Cook University will also offer Australia's first IoT engineering degree. Those studying the IoT degree -- which currently sits at 80 students -- will have the chance to be hosted at Huawei's campuses in China and Sydney to take part in its Seeds for the Future R&D campaign.

"IoT is going to be the major game-changing technology of the future, and NB-IoT will be the major driver of this ICT revolution," Huawei Australia CEO Xichu Zhao said.

"The new IoT laboratory will support the first IoT-specific engineering degree offered in Australia."

According to Huawei, the IoT degree will see students learn a combination of "the study of electronic engineering with internet technologies, wireless communications, sensor device, industrial design, and cloud computing".

Huawei and Vodafone in April similarly opened an NB-IoT lab in Newbury, UK, dedicated to research and development of NB-IoT technology and applications, with Huawei at the time saying it would open six more across the globe.

The lab will provide a testing environment for application developers and chip, module, and device manufacturers, the companies said.

Huawei then conducted a series of NB-IoT technology trials across Melbourne last year in partnership with telecommunications provider Vodafone Australia, enabling the network operator to attain greater depth and distance -- to the tune of penetrating through three double-brick walls in depth, and up to 30km in distance -- in coverage using NB-IoT in comparison to 2G, 3G, and 4G.

Using wireless low-power wide-area narrowband networks for the IoT will allow for more devices to be connected to 4G networks at a lower cost, Huawei said.

Huawei unveiled its NB-IoT solution in July, aimed at enabling telecommunications providers to "turn IoT into a basic service", with large-scale commercial deployment occurring as of December 2016.

"The number of cellular IoT connections worldwide will grow seven-fold over the next three to four years," Jiang Wangcheng, vice president of Marketing and Solutions in Huawei's Products and Solutions division, said at the time.

"NB-IoT will be a key driver for this trend -- it will also be one of the key untapped markets for operators. In 2015, Huawei launched the '1+2+1' IoT ICT Strategy. As commercial deployment draws near, our end-to-end NB-IoT Solution will be part of our core IoT strategy and drive the commercialisation of IoT applications.

"We are also building up a robust ecosystem where we aim to explore new business areas together with our carrier customers and partners. At Huawei, we are very confident and fully ready to enter a new era of IoT commercialisation."

Included in Huawei's NB-IoT solution is Huawei's LiteOS and NB-IoT chipset-enabled Smart Device Solution; base stations named eNodeB that adapt to NB-IoT; the "core in a box" network-function virtualisation (NFV) IoT Packet Core; and a big data-capable cloud-based IoT Connection Management Platform.

The solution was developed according to 3GPP standards, and is accessible for all NB-IoT application and device partners.

Huawei said its "1+2+1" IoT strategy creates the benefits of rapid and flexible full network coverage of NB-IoT thanks to NFV-based cloud SingleRAN architecture; its LiteOS allows for low-power industry-specific NB-IoT devices with a shorter time to market; and the solution enables industry-specific applications through the open big data-capable cloud-based Connection Management Platform.