Two South Korean mobile operators – KT Corp and LG Uplus – launched commercial low power wide area (LPWA) services using NB-IoT technology, taking the total number of LPWA deployments based on standardised cellular technology to 11 networks by nine operators in six countries.

In a blog post, the GSMA noted that South Korea’s second largest operator KT launched NB-IoT nationwide after trialling the service in Seoul and other cities in April.

Meanwhile, number three player LG UPlus also rolled out commercial NB-IoT networks nationwide in 85 cities, “working predominantly with private gas and power companies at launch”.

There’s no word yet on number one operator SK Telecom (SKT), which has already deployed a LPWA network based on non-cellular tech offering LoRa. Earlier this year SKT told Mobile World Live it has not ruled out a move to NB-IoT.

The double activation marks further momentum for NB-IoT, which is already used for live networks in China, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.

NB-IoT is one of three technologies the GSMA is touting as an enabler of LPWA networks (the other two are LTE-M and EC-GSM-IoT). All three were standardised by the 3GPP last year and are playing catchup with unlicensed LPWA offerings already established in the market, such as Sigfox and LoRa.

US operators AT&T and Verizon have both deployed LTE-M.

It is expected that mobile operators will use NB-IoT and LTE-M networks to support mass-market IoT applications such as smart meters, asset tracking, smart grids and city parking. Supporters of the cellular LPWA technologies argue they are low cost, support long battery lives and can operate in remote locations.