China Telecom plans to have nationwide narrow-band IoT (NB-IoT) coverage using the 800MHz band by the end of the first half of 2017.

The company’s chairman, Yang Jie, said the operator is upgrading its 4G network using two-carrier aggregation on the 1.8GHz and 2.1GHz bands, and will also refarm the 800MHz band for LTE services, reported. The 800MHz band was previously used for CDMA service.

The operator, the country’s smallest mobile player but still boasting 224 million connections (16 per cent market share), earlier announced direct module subsidies of CNY200 million ($30 million) as well as a marketing budget of CNY200 million for its “esurfing IoT” initiative.

China Telecom also confirmed, at the Mobile Terminal Technology Forum in Guangzhou, that it will launch voice-over-LTE before the end of next year.

China’s machine-to-machine (M2M) market is expected to reach one billion connections by 2020, with the majority coming from the developing low-power wide area (LPWA) market, according to GSMA Intelligence.

China Unicom, the country’s second largest mobile operator, is planning large-scale NB-IoT field trials in more than five cities this year and aims to start commercial deployment by the end of the year and take coverage nationwide in 2018.

The support of the world’s largest mobile market is a major fillip to NB-IoT technology. It has only just been ratified as a standard by the 3GPP and trails rival proprietary LPWA technologies such as LoRa, RPMA and Sigfox.