Telstra and Ericsson expand NB-IoT range out to 100km

Using Ericsson software, NB-IoT extended range cells can now reach 100km away, which Telstra said is part of its efforts to connect regional and rural areas of the nation.

Telstra and Ericsson have announced what they called a key milestone of their rural coverage, making a long-range narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) data connection 100 kilometres away from a base station.

This marks an expansion of the connection from a previous limit of around 40km, the companies said, with Ericsson having designed the software enabling the long-range capability, which still supports standard NB-IoT devices.

"Telstra already had Australia's largest IoT coverage with Cat M1 across our 4G metro, regional, and rural coverage footprint," Telstra executive director of Network and Infrastructure Engineering Channa Seneviratne said.

"With this NB-IoT extended range feature, we have now extended our coverage to more than three and a half million square kilometres, delivering our customers the best IoT coverage and capability in the country."

Ericsson Australia and New Zealand MD Emilio Romeo said the capability could be used in the logistics and agriculture segments, with the two companies demonstrating an NB-IoT temperature sensor and a solar-powered weather station measuring temperature, humidity, rainfall, and leaf wetness.

Telstra had last week also announced partnering with "major water utilities" on its Digital Water Metering IoT solution, which it said will prevent water wastage and reduce water consumption by providing insights to better manage usage.

"Whether it's leakage prevention with smart water meters or environmental monitoring to keep our oceans clean and estuaries safe from contaminants, water utilities across the country are using IoT technology to better track, monitor, and conserve water," the company said at the Telstra Vantage 2018 conference in Melbourne last week.

Telstra's NB-IoT network now covers more than 3.5 million square kilometres, it said, with its Digital Water Metering solution operating across this to provide battery life of 12 to 15 years.

Telstra had launched its NB-IoT network in January during CES 2018, with current COO and incoming CFO Robyn Denholm at the time saying the network will provide connectivity for IoT devices with smaller packets of data being sent, such as sensors in the mining, agricultural, transport, logistics, manufacturing, and industrial IoT industries.

Telstra's Cat M1 IoT network , launched in August 2017, covers 3 million square kilometres , Seneviratne said last month.

Across its IoT suite, Telstra in August also unveiled its new set of IoT tracking solutions, with a consumer-focused Telstra Locator product and an enterprise-focused Track and Monitor solution.

Earlier this month, Ericsson also announced that it will build a virtualised core IoT network and operating system with US carrier Sprint.

According to Sprint senior vice president of IoT Ivo Rook, the network will be ready for 5G, with the network and OS to utilise Ericsson's IoT Accelerator platform.

"We are combining our IoT strategy with Ericsson's expertise to build a platform primed for the most demanding applications like artificial intelligence, edge computing, robotics, autonomous vehicles, and more with ultra-low-latency, the highest availability, and an unmatched level of security at the chip level," Rook said.

The IoT core network is designed to have low latency and high availability, the companies said, and by being distributed and virtualised they said it "reduces distance between the device generating the data and the IoT application processing it".

The OS then combines connectivity management, device management, data management, and managed services while "delivering immediate intelligence" on the data being collected.

T-Mobile, which Sprint is aiming to merge with next year, had launched its own NB-IoT network in July across the United States, with 5G SVP and IoT business chief Dave Mayo telling ZDNet that the network covers 2.1 million square miles and approximately 320 million people.

T-Mobile's primary vendors were Ericsson and Nokia. It had initially trialled NB-IoT a year ago in partnership with the City of Las Vegas, Ericsson, and Qualcomm.

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