Mobile operators around the world remained on track to reach the GSMA’s goal of 35 standardised low power wide area (LPWA) IoT networks – covering LTE-M and NB-IoT deployments – by February 2018.

Speaking on a GSMA webinar presented by Fierce Markets, the association’s technical director for its connected living programme Barbara Pareglio said 28 commercial LPWA networks on licensed spectrum were already available by the end of November.

She added there were now 27 IoT labs active across 12 countries and more than 60 pilot schemes underway with operators and vendors.

“Swiss Army” platform
At the event, executives from Orange Group and AT&T talked-up the potential of LTE-M, describing how the technology would help them effectively compete with players operating on unlicensed platforms.

Ronan Le Bras, head of technical strategy, wireless networks at Orange Group, said LTE-M was the “Swiss army knife” of IoT, offering tangible benefits for a range of use cases including industrial and smart cities, automotive, logistics, smart homes and personal IoT devices.

However, he added success would rely on open dialogue with customers to highlight the benefit of LTE-M and move customers away from M2M systems currently running on 2G.

“A lot of education is needed for verticals and they need to understand how LTE-M will improve their product,” Le Bras said.

Orange Group aims to launch LTE-M across most of its European footprint in 2018, with Spain and Belgium earmarked as first to market before availability in France.

AT&T director of IoT advanced product development David Allen pointed to the new markets LTE-M opened where cellular technology was previously inhibited due to the battery-intensive nature of wireless technologies and high price of standard 4G modules.

He added battery saving measures and sub-$5 LTE-M chips being developed would help bring the technology to the masses.

While AT&T and Orange talked-up the benefits of LTE-M, Huawei vice director of cellular IoT products Xu Jianmin said his company had seen strong interest in NB-IoT as operators around the world eye increased exposure to vertical markets.

“In order to have a successful business, [operators] need to find more use cases and get more vertical customers,” Xu said.

The company is actively promoting 12 use cases it identified as ripe for operator deployment including shared bicycle facilities, smart street lighting, connected cattle, smart metering and the logistics industry.

Branding boost
In another boost to NB-IoT, the GSMA yesterday (5 December) unveiled a universal hallmark (pictured, right) for NB-IoT products to show they are compatible with commercial networks around the globe.

Commenting on the branding, Jens Olejak, GSMA NB-IoT forum member and senior IoT product manager at Deutsche Telekom, said: “The introduction of an official NB-IoT logo represents a major milestone on the journey to establish NB-IoT as the leading transmission standard for small but massive IoT applications. Going forward, we will use it in our communications to underline the consistency of a worldwide standard and the determination of the mobile IoT community.”