Vodafone Group said it will debut live NB-IoT networks in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain during Q1 next year.

The operator said the rollout will involve a software upgrade to its existing 4G base stations, meaning a rapid shift to nationwide coverage “almost immediately”.

The initial four countries will be followed by others during 2017, with full coverage of Vodafone’s global network by 2020.

NB-IoT is the cellular industry’s favoured technology to support Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) networks, which will drive low bandwidth applications like smart meters and parking sensors. It is competing with unlicensed technology offerings such as LoRa and Sigfox which have enjoyed commercial momentum globally.

NB-IoT was ratified as a standard in June by the 3GPP and is expected to see major rollout next year. At the GSMA Mobile 360 Middle East event this week in Dubai, Huawei said Deutsche Telekom will rollout in Europe next March, while TIM will deploy sometime in 2017. China Unicom is expected to launch NB-IoT networks in 800 Shanghai sites this quarter.

Last week, Deutsche Telekom said it had activated the world’s first NB-IoT end-to-end system on a live network in Germany. It was set to demo the system this week.

Vodafone said it last week completed another first — the test of an  NB-IoT connected product on a commercial network.

Vodafone Spain linked up a parking sensor buried in a parking space within Madrid’s Vodafone Plaza. An app displayed on a smartphone screen successfully showed that the space was occupied when a car parked in it, and then went back to free when the vehicle moved away.

Back in September, Vodafone previously commented on the progress in Spain, when it also flagged its intention for 2017 commercial launch.