In response to growing customer demand, UK operator Vodafone has doubled the number of sites on its narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network and says its coverage now reaches 98% of the UK.
Vodafone said it has invested in IoT because of its potential to transform UK businesses through data-driven insights. It can be used to improve existing operations and launch new products and services.
The operator said it has seen an increase in demand in many industries for Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technology, designed to enable efficient communication over large geographic footprints or in the heart of urban infrastructure.
NB-IoT supports long battery life and reduced costs for devices with low data demand and is used in applications where the lowest possible connectivity cost is critical to the viability of the analysis profitability. Use cases include industrial and commercial meters, water monitoring, asset tracking, and smart city applications including air quality monitoring.
In doing the business case for NB-IoT, Vodafone considers that the technology offers a number of advantages over using mobile networks for certain use cases and devices, particularly with regard to the duration life of devices and batteries, which he says can be extended as long as 10 years; reduction in the cost of modems and devices, which also means reduced overall capital expenditure; more scalable and at lower cost of deployment; extended coverage due to lower signal requirements for data transmission; and reduced maintenance requirements for devices located in remote and inaccessible locations.
Another perceived benefit of NB-IoT is coverage beyond the traditional mobile footprint, as the network is designed for devices with lower bandwidth requirements. For use cases where a weaker signal is sufficient (-128 dBm), Vodafone assures that its NB-IoT network will exceed 98% geographic coverage indoors and outdoors. For stronger signal requirements (-118dBm), it achieves 87% geographic coverage indoors and outdoors. For areas not yet covered by the NB-IoT network, Vodafone said it will work with customers to upgrade and add infrastructure on a case-by-case basis.
The IoT platform is hosted in Vodafone’s secure environment and can be fine-tuned for each use case or customer, making IoT more accessible to more businesses. The NB-IoT network is already used by customers in several industries, including SES Water and United Utilities to detect leaks in underground pipes and other infrastructure.
“NB-IoT is a part of our network that is often overlooked, but it is becoming increasingly important, bringing data from a growing variety of devices to fuel decision making in more organizations,” said Anne Sheehan, Commercial Director of Vodafone UK.
“This is a network designed for low bandwidth devices, allowing coverage beyond 4G, and devices with potentially extended battery life of up to 10 years.
“In IoT, customers may want to use our 4G network for real-time, data-intensive analytics, while others may need a connectivity solution for non-urgent use cases, such as environmental monitoring. We have invested in NB-IoT because we want to give our customers the right tools for the right job, in a way that is affordable and accessible to every customer, ”said Sheehan.