SK Telecom to roll-out nationwide LPWA network for IoT

South Korean mobile operator plans to invest a total of US$ 84 billion by 2017 in its low power wide area network to boost its IoT business and it will also develop dedicated IoT modules

SK Telecom to roll-out nationwide LPWA network for IoT

SK Telecom has announced plans to significantly ramp up its investment in the Internet of Things (IoT) including building a nationwide low power wide area network (LPWAN). The operator will also develop IoT-dedicated modules and upgrade its IoT platform ThingPlug.

To implement its strategy, the company said that it will invest more than KRW 100 billion (approximately US$ 84 million) over two years.

The company’s plans come in step with the Korean Government’s aggressive move towards promoting new industries including the IoT industry. In particular, the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning decided to revise the maximum transmit power for the 900MHz frequency band – i.e. from 10mW to 200mW - to nurture the IoT industry.

Such move is expected to help operators overcome limitations caused by the low transmit power and to secure the basis for many new IoT services.

With the nationwide deployment of the LPWA networks, SK Telecom will secure a solid IoT infrastructure. LPWAN is a type of telecommunications network designed to support communication among IoT devices.

As it can transmit data over tens of kilometers while consuming much less power, many companies across the world are actively developing the LPWA technologies and launching related services.

LPWAN, once built, is expected to give birth to numerous types of new business models – e.g. metering, location tracking (e.g. finding missing persons/pets, tracking logistics, etc.) and monitoring & control services - as it dramatically saves battery power and cost for connectivity.

SK Telecom is a supporter of LoRa Alliance, which it joined in July 2015, which is working to standardise the LPWA network, as well as measures for the adoption and utilisation of the network.

The LoRa protocol is one of a number of competing LPWAN standards being developed at the moment generally utilising unlicensed spectrum bands, including Ingenu, Sigfox and Weightless. The 3GPP standards body is also working on several rival cellular standards including LTE-M, NB-IoT and EC-GSM-IoT.

Along with the nationwide LPWAN deployment, SK Telecom will also establish an IoT Control Centre to manage network equipment and IoT devices. The IoT Control Centre will monitor real-time status of the nationwide IoT network and all connected devices to optimise the operation.

The centre will also operate an IoT Security Diagnosis Process that urges one to follow the security guidelines from the stage of product planning, and measures the security level of the developed or altered system/devices and removes security weaknesses.

SK Telecom said it will also develop IoT-dedicated modules that can be embedded in the IoT devices. It also plans to open the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) of these modules to third party companies. To further support start-ups and SMEs, the company will provide IoT modules, free of charge, to allow them to test their services, thus lowering the entry barrier for them.

The operator plans to make constant upgrades to its IoT platform ThingPlug, launched in 2015, to create an environment where anyone can easily develop and use an IoT service.

“Through our IoT strategy that encompasses network, platform and devices, SK Telecom will lead the growth of the IoT industry,” said Lee Hyung-hee, President and Chief Operating Officer of SK Telecom.

“Our forward-looking efforts will also contribute to the creation of an enriched IoT ecosystem where developers and startups/SMEs can easily build diverse IoT services that can bring new and differentiated value for customers.”

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