LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 MIDDLE EAST: Operators must act now in bringing NB-IoT to market – amid competition from unlicensed LPWA offerings – or risk being left with nothing, warned Lin Yanqing, Huawei’s VP marketing Middle East.

Speaking on a panel with operators STC, Ooredoo Qatar and Etisalat and vertical Globetouch, Yanqing (pictured, second right) pulled no punches, highlighting the threat of rival technologies like LoRa and the opportunity for it to emerge as the prevailing technology for the Internet of Things (IoT), unless action is taken.

“Operators must be the champions,” he said. “Revenue is not growing like it was five years ago, so there needs to be a focus on new sources and IoT is that market. But if you do not move right, other technologies and other players will take your pie. LoRa will be there, and will take the market unless you act now and change the situation. If we cannot make a dent in the next two or three years, we will not get anything.”

Huawei is of course a big supporter of the 3GPP backed NB-IoT standard, and Yanqing, like fellow panellists, was quick to trumpet the advantages that licenced spectrum will have over rival proprietary technologies in the long run.

He revealed that Huawei had already deployed NB-IoT solutions in Australia, after an initial LoRa deployment had proved insufficient, hailing it as one of the first victories.

STC’s Othman Al Dahash, VP products development and management, added that licenced spectrum will make the IoT presence more sustained, and because it was a software play, “we can pick on assets that we already have, and get coverage there”.

In terms of the company’s targeted roll-out, Dahash said it was still at the planning stage, with pilots and trials expected next year.

Data game
Meanwhile, Ooredoo Qatar’s assistant business director development support, Cyril Anand, said the company was approaching IoT and LPWA with a slightly different approach, taking a view on the data that will be available once billions of devices are connected.

“There is the ongoing legacy work of trying to connect all these devices, or we can get into what data we can get from these devices and how to monetise,” he said. “Operators tend to go for the crystal clear business case, but we need a shift and operators need to get into the big data part of the game. We need to be at the top table of this too, or we could end up being followers like we were with OTT. We need a different approach now.”