Telstra is to trial a new wireless technology in the Melbourne CBD, designed specifically for Internet of Things (IoT) applications. The network will be used to support its IoT Challenge, being run in conjunction with the City of Melbourne, where contestants develop and demonstrate IoT applications.
The technology, LoRaWAN, operates in unlicensed spectrum and is being promoted by the LoRa Alliance, a global organisation formed earlier this year that is backed by IBM, Cisco and others. Its Australian members are NetComm Wireless, which manufactures technology for machine-to-machine communications using cellular networks; and National Narrowband Network Communications, a startup that it rolling out a LoRaWAN network in Sydney.
LoRaWAN is based on technology developed by US manufacturer, Semtech. There are a number of manufacturers of LoRaWAN products, but according to one, Link-Labs, at present no vendor provides an end-to-end LoRaWAN solution.
A spokesman told ZDNet that the trial would be confined to the Melbourne CBD and that Telstra had no plans at this stage for further deployments. Telstra declined to disclose its suppliers.
"This trial will help inform our view on the role for the technology," the spokesman said. "The IoT Challenge will help Telstra understand applications that operate within the constraints of a low rate, highly efficient wireless data service of which there are several solutions available."
Announcing the challenge, Telstra said: "We're building a test network across the Melbourne CBD: optimised for all the things that don't send much data. A thing connecting to this network could run for years on a small battery, fit into the palm of your hand and cost less than lunch."
Telstra's IoT challenge also includes a "Telstra Application Enablement Platform" and requires contestants to collect data and send it to this platform. The spokesman said Telstra would provide details about this platform closer to the date of the IoT Challenge. The event is scheduled to happen from November 28 to December 3.
LoRaWAN supports data rates range up to 50Kbps. It is one of a number of new wireless technologies developed for IoT, all designed to overcome some of the main disadvantages of cellular: the technology makes the devices relatively expensive and with short battery life.
However, the cellular standards body, 3GPP, is working on a development of LTE for IoT applications and Telstra said it was also working to accelerate the introduction of 3GPP-based (cellular standards) solutions for IoT. Telstra's mobile network supplier Ericsson last week demonstrated LTE Power Saving Mode with AT&T and chipset maker Altair.
"The feature is able to dramatically extend IoT device battery life up to ten years or more for common use cases and traffic profiles," Ericsson said.
Notwithstanding these developments, mobile operators around the world appear to be hedging their bets on IoT technologies. Telco members of the LoRa Alliance include KPN (Netherlands), Bouyges Telecom, SK Telecom, and Swisscom. Orange, which has almost 160 million cellular subscribers worldwide and about 25 million in France, announced in September plans for a LoRaWAN network throughout France.