The GSMA — which represent almost 800 mobile network operators and more than 250 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem — has set up a ‘Mobile IoT Initiative’ aimed at standardising, in licenced spectrum, low power wide area wireless technologies designed specifically for connecting the Internet of Things.
The new group is backed by 26 GSMA members, including Telstra, Optus’ parent Singtel, and Vodafone. GSMA says it will “work to accelerate the commercial availability of mobile IoT technology by facilitating demonstrations, proofs of concept and trials of a selection of complementary low powered wide area (LPWA) licensed spectrum technologies.”
The group will provide analysis and feedback to assist 3GPP in standardising the technologies. GSMA expects initial specifications for LPWA solutions will be completed by the end of 2015, with a first implementation in early 2016 and full commercial solutions following later in the year.”
LPWA networks making headway
The move comes as a number of proprietary LPWA technologies are gathering momentum. In Australia, National Narrowband Network Communications (NNN) is planning to launch a network using LoRaWAN technology. Australian startup, Taggle, is already providing IoT connectivity using its proprietary LPWA technology. French company Sigfox has an Australian patent for its technology and sources have told IoTAustralia that the company is actively assessing the local market. Last month, US based Sensus announced a partnership with BAI (parent company of Broadcast Australia) to bring its proprietary FlexNet technology to the local market.
Australia’s mobile network operators have been tipped to start rolling out LPWA networks within a year. David Spence, cofounder of National Narrowband Network, told IoTAustralia: “All the mobile operators have got teams looking at various types of networks and I think we will start seeing deployments inside 12 months.”
GSMA acting director, Alex Sinclair, said: “The market opportunity for LPWA will be a significant driver in the development of the IoT and it’s essential that the mobile industry address the requirements for LPWA cases early on. The industry is clearly united behind the Mobile IoT Initiative, providing a common vision to accelerate the availability of industry standard solutions, removing market fragmentation and accelerating adoption.”
Cellular technologies are not well-suited to many IoT applications. Some of these shortcomings will be addressed in the forthcoming LTE-M specification, and the needs of IoT are being considered from the outset in the development of 5G, but cellular is never likely to cater for the full spectrum of IoT requirements.
3GPP to standardise LPWA
GSMA says: “LPWA networks are designed for machine-to-machine (M2M) applications that have low data rates, long battery lives and that operate unattended for long periods of time. … A single technology is not capable of addressing all of the LPWA use cases and so the initiative will focus on three proposed complementary licensed 3GPP standards: LTE Evolutions, GSM evolutions and clean slate technologies. LPWA technologies in licensed spectrum can be deployed in a simplified and cost-effective manner, without sacrificing key customer requirements, such as battery lifetime and security.”
It adds: “[LPWA] is an emerging area of the Internet of Things (IoT) and represents a huge market opportunity as the IoT scales. Analyst firms including Analysys Mason, Machina Research and Strategy Analytics anticipate that there will be 2.7 billion LPWA connections by 2022.”
GMSA members backing the initiative are: T&T, Alcatel-Lucent, Bell Canada, China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Etisalat, Huawei, Gemalto, Intel, KDDI, Nokia, NTT DOCOMO, Ooredoo, Orange, Qualcomm, Sierra Wireless, Singtel, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor, Telstra, u-blox and Vodafone.