Spark NZ launches IoT network across New Zealand

Spark's LoRaWAN network is already available in cities including Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, and will provide coverage to Queenstown and 10 other regions by June.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

New Zealand mobile telecommunications company Spark NZ has announced the launch of its Internet of Things (IoT) network, which is currently available in "60 percent of the places New Zealanders live and work."

The LoRaWAN IoT network has been switched on in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Shannon, Blenheim, Nelson, and Dunedin.

It will additionally provide coverage by June 2018 to Queenstown, Whangarei, Pukekohe, Gisborne, Napier, Taupo, New Plymouth, Whanganui, Timaru, Hastings, and Invercargill, with the latter two to go live within weeks.

The network consists of gateways and antennas installed atop Spark NZ's 4G cell sites, with the telco using Actility's ThingPark Wireless platform, Kerlink's gateways, and Kordia to build and maintain the network.

Spark NZ said it will enable business and local governments to deploy sensors across infrastructure including vehicles, machinery, rubbish bins, car parks, and livestock, with the telco saying it would cost around AU$1.79 per cow to connect each month to track location and body temperature.

"Our IoT capability is really gathering pace, and now we've got this critical mass of coverage we're able to make the network commercially available," Spark GM of IoT Solutions Michael Stribling said.

"While we currently have 60 percent of rural and urban New Zealand covered, we'll be working to extend that to 70 percent by July this year. We're also looking to partner with organisations to extend coverage into areas where they need it."

Spark NZ is additionally considering partnering with other organisations to extend IoT network coverage into other areas, with agricultural company Levno in Palmerston North working to help expand coverage so it can deploy its fuel tank monitoring sensors.

The telco has also been trialling the LoRaWAN tech for over a year alongside agricultural, smart buildings, and marine partners. Some of its early adopters of the new commercial network include NB Smartcities, which will use the connectivity for smart outdoor lighting across the nation.

"Councils will be able to use the smart lighting technology to manage streetlights remotely, applying bespoke dimming profiles, monitoring maintenance, and turning them on or off as needed," Spark NZ said.

"This will enable them to respond faster to community requests, events, and changes in daylight to keep streets safer for people, save power and reduce carbon emissions."

Spark had last month said in its financial report for the first half of FY18 that it is also continuing to trial its Cat-M1 network.

"We are also testing LTE Cat-M1 technology over our mobile network, which is ideal where sensors and devices are transferring large amounts of data regularly and real-time access to that data is critical. We believe these two networks will be complementary when it comes to meeting customer needs," Spark said.

For the half year, Spark announced total operating revenue of NZ$1.8 billion, up 1.6 percent.

Net earnings were down by 3.4 percent to NZ$172 million and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) were NZ$463 million, down 1.7 percent due to Spark's current transformation program.

During the six-month period, Spark spent NZ$262 million on capex: NZ$17 million on its Converged Communications Network (CCN); NZ$14 million on international cable construction and capacity purchases on the Southern Cross cable system; NZ$64 million on IT systems, including expanding its telecommunications-as-a-service offerings for government; NZ$89 million on its mobile network; and NZ$38 million on its fibre broadband, Optical Transport Network (OTN), and carrier Ethernet expansion.

Broadband delivered NZ$341 million in revenue, down 0.9 percent, with 45 percent of its broadband customers now on fibre or wireless broadband technologies.

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