DUBLIN -- IoT World 2016 -- Vodafone Ireland has revealed that it will launch an NB-IoT service in January as it targets opportunities in the fast-growing market for low-power, wide-area (LPWA) connectivity.
Lauren Morris, who heads up Vodafone Ireland 's IoT business, told attendees at today's IoT World 2016 event in Dublin that NB-IoT would be available for testing in the Irish market from January, with a full commercial launch to follow.
"The update today is that we expect to have NB-IoT available in the Irish market from January and that gives Irish customers the opportunity to test the latest and greatest [in technology]," she said during a morning keynote presentation.
The update comes after parent company Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) revealed that it would launch NB-IoT networks in the markets of Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain during the first three months of 2017. (See Vodafone Ups IoT Stakes With 2017 Plan for NB-IoT.)
The UK-headquartered operator has emerged as arguably the biggest cheerleader for NB-IoT, which has been designed to support gadgets requiring very low-cost data connectivity, such as smart meters and asset-tracking devices.
Included in the 3GPP's Release 13 in the summer, NB-IoT faces competition from LPWA technologies such as Sigfox and LoRa, which rely on unlicensed spectrum to support device connections and are already in commercial deployment.
In the absence of a cellular alternative, several big mobile operators appear to have turned to LoRa, which is backed by Californian chipmaker Semtech Corp. (Nasdaq: SMTC), while France's Sigfox last week claimed to serve more than 10 million connections. (See Sigfox Defies Critics to Raise €150M in Funding.)
While some telcos see a role for both 3GPP and unlicensed-spectrum technologies, Vodafone has been scathing in its assessment of both Sigfox and LoRa.
Earlier this year, Matt Beal, a senior executive at Vodafone, told Light Reading that NB-IoT would "crush" Sigfox and LoRa when it finally appeared. (See Vodafone to 'Crush' LoRa, Sigfox With NB-IoT.)
The operator reckons it can deploy NB-IoT at a rapid pace because around 80% of its basestations will need only a software upgrade to support the new technology.
"We consider NB-IoT to be the best LPWA technology that is out there and a number of credible vendors would agree with that, including Huawei, Intel and Ericsson," said Morris at today's event.
Morris went on to say that NB-IoT is already live in a number of Spanish cities and that trials carried out with Agua de Valencia, a water company, have shown the technology can provide connectivity over long distances and when components have been installed underground.
Vodafone Group says its existing IoT business is now adding about 1 million connections every month and that revenues are growing by about 29% every year.
According to a recent Vodafone survey of 1,100 business leaders and experts, 76% of companies examining IoT now consider it to be of critical importance to the business. Of those that have adopted IoT in some form, 63% said they were seeing a return on investment, up from 59% last year.
Morris also told attendees that 89% of companies have increased the amount they are spending on IoT since last year. "That evidence could help other companies to seek further funding internally," she said.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading