South Korea’s largest mobile operator, SK Telecom (SKT), plans to deploy a nationwide low-power wide area (LPWA) network this year as part of its long-term strategy to support Internet of Things (IoT) services.
The operator, with a 49 per cent market share, said it will invest more than KRW100 billion ($84 million) in IoT projects over the next two years. It also will develop IoT-dedicated modules and set up an IoT control centre.
SKT is the latest operator to deploy LPWA networks based on LoRa technology from the LoRa Alliance. It is competing against other proprietary LPWA technologies such as Ingenu and Sigfox, as well as future 3GPP-backed technologies like NB-IoT (which is expected to be standardised later this year). French operators Bouygues and Orange are among supporters of LoRa.
The announcement comes as South Korea’s government aggressively promotes the IoT sector.
The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, for example, raised the maximum transmit power for the 900MHz band (from 10mW to 200mW), which is expected to help operators overcome limitations caused by the low transmit power and to secure the basis for many new IoT services.
An LPWA network is designed to support communication among IoT devices as it can transmit data over tens of kilometres while consuming much less power. Once built, the network is expected to support numerous types of new business models, such as smart metering, location tracking, and monitoring and control services.
SKT plans to develop modules that can be embedded in IoT devices and open the APIs to third-party companies. To support startups, it will provide the IoT modules for free to allow firms to test their services and lower the barrier to entry.
The company also announced it will set up an IoT control centre to manage network equipment and IoT devices. It will monitor the real-time status of the nationwide IoT network and all connected devices to optimise the operation, the company said in a statement.
SKT said it will continue to upgrade its IoT platform ThingPlug, which it launched last year.