Telecom Italia Covers 73% of Italy With NB-IoT

Telecom Italia will make NB-IoT services available across 75% of its 4G network by the end of October, the Italian telco announced today.

The service will support data connectivity for devices like smart meters, which require far more power-efficient and low-cost technology than operators can provide using 4G or other mainstream cellular standards.

Telecom Italia's 4G network today covers more than 97% of the Italian population, which means NB-IoT will be available across some 5,000 municipalities.

Claiming to be the first Italian operator to launch an NB-IoT service, Telecom Italia (TIM) said the technology's widespread availability would support the rollout of smart meters, allowing utilities and consumers to monitor energy consumption in real time.

The update follows NB-IoT trials in April, when Telecom Italia sent data generated by smart water meters over a live NB-IoT network.

Some of Europe's biggest mobile operators have now made commitments to NB-IoT, including Germany's Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) and UK-based Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), and the standard has also drawn support from T-Mobile US in North America.

Signs of growing momentum will be welcomed by the cellular industry following a period in which NB-IoT appeared to be struggling.

Vodafone missed launch targets earlier this year and there were indications of NB-IoT interoperability problems between China's Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd and Sweden's Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC). (See NB-IoT Interoperability a Problem, but It's Being Fixed – Sequans CEO and Ericsson, Huawei incompatibility threatens NB-IoT – sources.)

While delays and technical difficulties were never likely to be showstoppers, NB-IoT continues to face competition from a range of other technologies targeting similar opportunities.

Several operators have swung behind an alternative cellular standard called LTE-M. While this was previously regarded as a more expensive and power-hungry option, some experts say the cost and technical differences between LTE-M and NB-IoT are negligible. (See Could LTE-M Torpedo NB-IoT? and LTE-M Cleaning Up in NB-IoT's Absence, Says Altair Co-Founder.)

There is also competition from outside the cellular industry. Technologies such as Sigfox and LoRa, which rely on access to unlicensed spectrum, have already made some headway in the market. Their backers continue to boast a significant cost advantage over NB-IoT and say this will last for years.

Given the support it now enjoys, NB-IoT stands a good chance of becoming one of the main standards used for so-called low-power, wide-area (or LPWA) communications -- at least in the short term.

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But its future is by no means assured. Unless the cost of NB-IoT chipsets and modules falls dramatically, organizations with very basic connectivity needs may continue to prefer unlicensed-spectrum technologies. An executive involved with Deutsche Telekom's NB-IoT program complained that module costs were still far too high as recently as May this year. (See NB-IoT? Not at Those Prices, Say DT Customers.)

And regardless of the connectivity technology, there is skepticism that so-called "Internet of Things" services will ever generate much for large cellular operators in terms of revenues.

To really profit in this market, say experts, operators will have to make the leap from providing connectivity to offering a range of value-added services -- something they have previously struggled to do.

Telecom Italia said that since last November it has been working on the development of NB-IoT services at an Open Lab facility in Turin. To date, it said, it has been involved in "39 active collaborations" with 110 companies.

The operator also said it would complete the rollout of its 4G network in January, extending coverage into previously unconnected communities.

— Iain Morris, News Editor, Light Reading

iotman 10/16/2017 | 6:38:37 PM
Re: Momentum NB1 will never have voice, and the use cases are completely different. NB1 is for extremely long battery life sending a few packets each day. Millions/billions of true IOT devices (not smart-watches etc) will need NB-IOT for ROI. Yes they could be done by CAT-M, but with less battery life, less coverage penetration and a much smaller eco system (as Ive mentioned a few times now, Asia will dictate the eco-system for IOT, so that race is already run and won). China telecom have 1million + LTE base stations, and all industries are driving NB1 with true interoperability across Ericcson/Huawei/Nokia already achieved. Where are the mass deployments for CAT-M in the US, I havent heard of any 100,000+ device deployment plans anywhere online...................

DanJones 10/16/2017 | 2:17:30 PM
Re: Momentum CAT M has decent momentum in the US. operators appear to like the voice capability, which NB Io t doesn't have yet.
iotman 10/15/2017 | 6:47:20 PM
Momentum Well, well, well. Looks like this 'failing', 'non-interoperable' and 'costly' NB-IOT technology looks like it might actually be the winner after all? Just like 2G before it, module prices will be the lowest in its class, as the eco-system will be huge. China is already producing > 100,000 modules per month already and demand is growing. The price point will soon be irrelevant. For subscription costs, they will start at 3USD per year. Not bad for a fully secured, decicated and reliable connection to your devices with a 10+ year battery life!


Hows the CAT-M eco-system going? I can see the tumbleweeds blowing down the street. It may have some life for when we turn Dick Tracy and start talking into our watches, but these claims that because it has a higher band-width it can get data trasferred more quickly and therefore be as low power consumption as NB-IOT is not correct. At the deep levels of the technology, there are fundamental differences such as RAI and other specific optimizations that will mean that NB1 will be signficantly less power consumption. Add to this the extra 5-10db in link budget and the ROI becomes very clear for mass scale IOT.


Game, set, match Iian?
NBIOT_CN 10/14/2017 | 1:19:40 AM
Re: Chipsets? Qualcomm and Hisilion already have chips available.  Quite a few other vendors will release their NBIOT chips this year.  See https://m.eet.com/content/images/eetimes/8%20Roadmap%20x%20800_1507851973.jpg

Regarding the cost, at least I know RDA (NBIOT/GSM dual mode chip) will set their target price of $2.  So the module should be well below $10. 
DanJones 10/13/2017 | 2:23:35 PM
Chipsets? Are NB-IoT chipsets readily available yet though? 
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