LIVE FROM LPWA 2016 EVENT, AMSTERDAM: Following this month’s official finalisation of the NB-IoT standard for low power wide area (LPWA) networks, Vodafone is busy prepping for commercial launch next year by targeting a ‘world-first’ customer trial in November.

After a successful pre-standard trial in Spain with water metering company Aguas de Valencia and vendor partners Huawei and u-blox, Vodafone Group R&D director Luke Ibbetson revealed this morning “we will accelerate towards having a first live standards-compliant trial by the end of this year… as a precursor to full commercial service in Spain.”

Ibbetson said the lessons from this trial will be used to accelerate rollout across other markets. Indeed, only last month Vodafone announced intention to roll out NB-IoT tech across “multiple markets” in 2017, a fillip for the LPWA cellular technology that is facing strong competition from proprietary rivals such as Ingenu, LoRa and Sigfox.

And Ibbetson is bullish on how quickly its LTE network can be upgraded to support NB-IoT. He claims more than 85 per cent of its European LTE sites operating in 800MHz spectrum can be upgraded via software, with this figure hitting 95 per cent here in the Netherlands.

“This is a very important result for us…. it’s important to our goal of rolling this tech out as quickly as possible.”

By 2020, Vodafone aims to have all its LTE sites supporting NB-IoT technology.

To support its attempt to create a community of NB-IoT developers, Vodafone opened in April what it claims is the world’s first NB-IoT open lab, in Newbury, UK. And more are on their way; Ibbetson said the operator plans to open another lab in Central Europe before the end of this year that will add partners Ericsson and Nokia to its earlier effort with Huawei in Newbury.