NNNCo rolling out Newcastle IoT network

The NSW government has kicked in AU$5 million for NNNCo to build out a LoRa IoT network to support Newcastle's smart city project.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The National Narrowband Network Company (NNNCo) will be building out a commercial-grade Internet of Things (IoT) network across Newcastle to enable smart cities applications, it has announced.

NNNCo said it was chosen by Newcastle City Council at the start of this year after a competitive tender process, and will spend the next six weeks deploying a long-range wide-area network (LoRaWANTM) as a result.

NNNCo CEO Rob Zagarella is hoping for the project to lead to similar rollouts across other Australian cities and regions.

"Working with Newcastle will enable us to guide other cities to transform their services and infrastructure through carrier-grade LoRaWAN IoT networks and enable these networks to grow across the country," Zagarella said on Tuesday.

"LoRaWAN's capabilities are extremely well suited to smart city requirements, and the technology is already used in cities across Europe and the US, where it's proven to be reliable, secure, and affordable at scale.

"Being a global open standard technology also provides the capability to build an ecosystem over time rather than a silo solution."

City Council Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the project will "confirm" Newcastle's smart city leadership after adopting a strategy in July last year, with NNNCo's network to enable the connectivity of smart parking, lighting, transport, and waste-management systems.

"By investing in this infrastructure, we will provide a platform for community groups, education and research providers, industry, businesses, and entrepreneurs to develop their own smart applications and ideas," Nelmes said.

"Our smart city strategy is supporting a city-wide revitalisation and regional transformation by encouraging innovation and creativity across all sectors to promote economic growth and diversity."

The New South Wales government has kicked in AU$4.98 million for the project.

Newcastle had also won the second-largest federal government grant for smart cities projects, scoring AU$5 million at the end of last year alongside its co-contribution of more than AU$10 million for Smart Move Newcastle: Intelligent Mobility, Energy, and Data Networks.

NNNCo has previously worked on IoT trials with Melbourne's metropolitan water utilities to test coverage, data delivery, and battery life of digital water metering for City West Water, South East Water, and Yarra Valley Water.

This followed trials of LoRaWAN technology with Ergon Energy in Queensland back in 2016, with NNNCo in June last year also announcing a joint-venture company called Connected Country to construct and manage a nationwide LoRaWAN IoT network in partnership with Discover Ag.

Connected Country's Rural IoT Network is aimed at providing low-cost connectivity to farmers to enable them to deploy IoT devices and solutions. The bi-directional communication capabilities allow farmers to not only receive data, but also control water infrastructure, track assets, deploy feeding and watering functions, and signal during emergencies.

NNNCo then signed an operator agreement with LoRa IoT provider Actility during Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 in Barcelona in February, which will see NNNCo run its network core in Australia using the Actility ThingPark IoT software platform and wireless solution.

"NNNCo is moving into a focused operational stage for 2018 as we expand our IoT network and solutions across Australia, and this agreement is an important step," Zagarella said during MWC.

"A local server means data is kept in Australia, with faster throughput and the ability to provide more flexible service offerings to our customers and partners."

The NNN currently being provided across Australia with Actility was initially aimed at connecting utilities and agriculture with a more affordable solution than traditional mobile networks, Zagarella has previously said.

NNNCo last year also launched three IoT and machine-to-machine devices for use on LoRaWAN networks with Murata: Demand response enabling devices; a controller for smart streetlights; and a device that accepts inputs from sensors and sends data over LoRa networks.

NNNCo CTO Eric Hamilton had last year argued that traditional cellular networks are not required for IoT connectivity, as LoRaWAN is able to fulfil the needs of connecting millions of devices.

"If cellular is the answer, it's possible you've been asking the wrong question," Hamilton said.

"It's very, very clear as well that for low-cost sensors, and for low-power usage, and for a broad range of different applications, there's no need to actually be within a cellular environment."

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