KT, South Korea's largest fixed line telecom, will invest 150 billion won ($130 million) to build a NB-IoT network service using long-term evolution machine (LTE-M), with plans for an Internet of Small Things to be rolled out nationwide "sometime this year", a company spokesperson said on Friday.
The telecom said it will invest in the narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) network, and offer approximately 100,000 IoST sensor modules to developers, free of charge for the first year, to drive adoption.
"We will invest 150 billion won into this sector, which is an aggressive investment. We want to increase the number of connected IoST modules to 4 million by 2018," Kim June-keun, senior vice president and KT point man on all things IoT, told local reporters earlier this week.
LTE-M is the low-power, slower-speed version of 4G -- or 4.5G, as it is sometimes called -- that is lauded to power the machine-to-machine (M2M) communications of our collective IoT future.
KT boasted it can complete service testing within the final quarter of this year to become the first telecom in the world to launch a nationwide NB-IoT network. But the company declined to give a specific date for the rollout.
The telecom did say that IoST on its LTE-M network allows for connectivity among a massive quantity of sensors that collect information and transmit it in small data packets using only minimal amounts of electricity.
The Internet of Small Things is a key application of still-evolving IoT tech because it is much more energy efficient. It is also much easier to install connected devices and then maintain them over a long period of time.
KT's senior vice president said IoST has many possible applications beyond smart home services, including manufacturing. Sensors attached to fabrication lines will enable factory automation and boost industrial safety.
He promised KT would work with small and medium-sized enterprises to expand possible use cases for IoST. "Most of our IoST partners are SMEs. We will seek promising opportunities with them and achieve mutual growth," he said.
The telco showcased such possible future IoST use case scenarios as a bicycle security management system and a smart blood transportation box.
KT is banking on the LTE-M standard based on its belief that LTE-M is more stable than other IoST technologies -- SIGFOX and LoRa come to mind -- by virtue of the fact that it does not suffer quality degradation as a result of frequency interference.
The one thing we can all bank on for sure is the number of use case scenarios and ISoT devices will expand into the billions before the end of the decade.