Vodafone Australia, the country’s third largest mobile operator, said it is the first Australian operator to launch commercial narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) services.

The operator, which holds an 18 per cent market share, completed first stage rollouts around Frankston on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, and at its offices in Port Melbourne and North Sydney.

In a statement, Vodafone said it plans to extend the network across Melbourne’s central business district and suburbs in November. It will continue to expand its NB-IoT coverage to select areas of Sydney and Canberra in December, before rolling out to other areas of Australia in 2018.

Stuart Kelly, Vodafone’s executive general manager of enterprise, said NB-IoT technology will open up new opportunities for machine-to-machine connectivity which were not previously economically sustainable.

“NB-IoT offers customers a range of benefits, including greater power efficiency, with devices able to run on batteries for ten years or more on a single charge,” he said.

To prepare for the launch, Vodafone said it upgraded about half of its network sites and deployed software upgrades across its radio access network and elements of the core network. In addition, it integrated its NB-IoT service with Vodafone’s Global IoT platform.

Trials planned
Kelly said Vodafone is working with two customers to begin trials of the NB-IoT network before the end of the year.

CCP Technologies, a supplier of critical control point management systems with a focus on the food industry, uses smart IoT sensors to capture temperature and other data in controlled refrigeration environments to deliver business intelligence, alerts, and compliance verification reports.

Michael White, executive director and CEO, said: “Adding NB-IoT to our suite of connectivity options is an exciting move for CCP. Vodafone has already achieved fantastic results with NB-IoT and we are looking forward to working together on a trial.”

The second company is Metasphere, a provider of telemetry and control systems designed to help businesses manage their networks and assets.

Three 3GPP-licensed technologies – NB-IoT, EC-GSM-IOT and LTE-M – are claimed to cover all low power wide area (LPWA) use cases, ensuring customer choice and driving the IoT ecosystem. Rival proprietary technologies using unlicensed spectrum including Sigfox, LoRa and Ingenu have enjoyed earlier entry to market and racked up commercial deals.

However, NB-IoT and LTE-M are gaining traction in Asia, with commercial rollouts in countries including China, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.