Deutsche Telekom claims to have "activated" the world's first fully standardized NB-IoT network in Germany in a further sign of growing momentum for the emerging technology.
NB-IoT is one of several technologies catering to demand for so-called low-power, wide-area (LPWA) networks that can more economically support services like smart metering and asset tracking than older cellular standards. (See The NB-IoT Train Is Coming.)
Included in the 3GPP's Release 13 specification earlier this year, it is regarded as the cellular industry's answer to LPWA technologies that use unlicensed spectrum and are already in commercial use, including Sigfox and LoRa.
While late to the LPWA game, NB-IoT looks set for big things in 2017, having already secured major commitments from UK-based Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD).
Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT)'s apparent interest in using NB-IoT will further boost its prospects of becoming a leading technology for LPWA network deployments.
Beyond saying it has activated an "end-to-end system" on its "live" network, the German operator has not provided any details of its NB-IoT activities but appears to have been collaborating with China's Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. on the development of a smart parking service based on NB-IoT.
Deutsche Telekom intends to shed further light on its NB-IoT strategy during a press demonstration of the technology and the smart parking service on October 20.
Huawei and T-Mobile Netherlands , Deutsche Telekom's Dutch subsidiary, will also take part in that demonstration, according to a company statement.
A number of mobile operators have said they would prefer to use a standardized cellular technology than one of the LPWA solutions that rely on unlicensed frequencies.
Critics say the non-cellular alternatives may be subject to congestion and interference and have complained about the proprietary nature of technologies such as Sigfox.
Nevertheless, NB-IoT may have a hard time catching up with LoRa, which has won support from some of the world's biggest service providers in the last few months, including Japan's SoftBank Corp. and South Korea's SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM). (See LoRa Enters SoftBank's IoT Harem and SK Telecom Sees LTE-M, LoRa as Its 'Two Main IoT Pillars'.)
Vodafone, by contrast, appears to have studiously avoided experimentation with unlicensed-spectrum technologies, arguing that NB-IoT will "crush" both LoRa and Sigfox when it arrives in the market. (See Vodafone to 'Crush' LoRa, Sigfox With NB-IoT.)
France's Orange (NYSE: FTE) has taken a less partisan approach. While investing in a LoRa network in France, the operator has told Light Reading that it would consider moving its IoT services on to a cellular platform in future. (See LoRa May Not Be for Long Haul at Orange.)
For several companies, the decision to use LoRa has been motivated by a desire to cater to existing demand in the absence of a 3GPP-sanctioned alternative. (See Sigfox Customer Verisure Eyes NB-IoT.)
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading