Huawei and Vodafone have agreed to establish the world’s first NB-IoT (Narrowband Internet of Things) Open Lab. Under the agreement, this NB-IoT Open Lab initiative will drive strategic technology innovation and promote the eco-system relating to NB-IoT technology.
Using pre-standard NB-IoT technology prior to full standardization (currently underway within the 3GPP standards body), the Lab will enable the right development environment, which will greatly enhance the efficiency of future NB-IoT ecosystem ramp-up, the two companies claimed.
The NB-IoT Open Lab will serve as the catalyst for initiatives to explore cutting edge developments and verifications including network solution verification, new application innovation, device integration, business model research and product compliance certification, etc.
NB-IoT technology will extend the utilisation of Internet of Things (IoT) by making it more efficient to use LTE spectrum to connect objects requiring a long battery life and are located in hard to reach areas to the Internet by ways of mobile connectivity.
Able to be deployed over existing mobile networks, NB-IoT has strong industry support as a Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technology in licensed spectrum. As such it provides a cellular rival to existing LPWA technologies such as Sigfox, LoRa, Weightless and others, which work over unlicensed spectrum bands.
The technology is viewed by the industry as the licensed spectrum answer for enterprise applications in a range of different areas, from utility meters, sensor monitoring, to asset tracking. The first devices connected by NB-IoT technology are expected in late 2016 or early 2017.
A significant milestone was reached when the first successful commercial trial of pre-standard NB-IoT was completed in November 2015. Vodafone and Huawei successfully integrated the technology into the operator’s existing mobile network in Spain and then sent the first pre-standard NB-IoT message to a u-blox module installed in a water meter. This trial was the first of its kind to successfully implement narrowband communications using cellular bands.
The lab will be incorporated into the federation of NB-IoT Open Labs being planned within the GSMA’s NB-IoT Forum at a later stage. This will constitute a natural step for the two companies which are among the leading founding members of the NB-IoT Forum.
“As the technology moves towards commercial deployment in early 2017, it’s essential that we start building a strong ecosystem with developers and solution providers,” said Luke Ibbetson, Vodafone Group R&D Director and Chairman of the NB-IoT Forum.
David Wang, President of Wireless Product Line at Huawei, said: “This agreement builds on Huawei’s existing strong relationships with Vodafone and our joint commitment to lead the development of NB-IoT technology and its eco-system.
“Having successfully gained industry recognition, we will now continue to work closely with Vodafone to build a joint roadmap for the continuous evolution of the NB-IoT Open Lab to create innovative solutions to build a better connected world.”