South Africa’s leading telecoms operators continue their push into the Internet of things (IOT) market, with MTN this week announcing it is rolling out a dedicated IOT network and Vodacom hitting a new milestone in IOT connections.
Vodacom says it has connected more than three million ‘things’ in SA and averages 55 000 new connections per month.
“It’s worth noting that it took us eight years to get to two million connections and it took us only one year to get to three million,” says Deon Liebenberg, managing executive for Vodacom IOT.
“The rate of IOT adoption is picking up speed locally and with the commercial rollout of NarrowBand-IOT [NB-IOT], this is only going to accelerate even faster. The Internet of things is no longer hype – it’s real and it’s becoming more and more a part of our daily lives,” he adds.
In February, Vodacom’s parent company Vodafone announced it had become the first global IOT mobile provider to exceed 50 million connections, with growth of around one million new connections a month, with particularly strong performance in the automotive, healthcare and utilities sectors.
MTN Business, meanwhile, has announced an “aggressive rollout” of new generation technologies, such as NB-IOT and LoRaWANLow Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN), to support its machine-to-machine (M2M) and IOT platforms and enhance security of business-critical information.
Both NB-IOT and LPWAN enable new use cases for IOT solutions because they make it more efficient to connect objects requiring a long battery life and which are located in hard to reach areas.
“We have created a dedicated network that has its own core business support systems and operational support systems for all our M2M and IOT solutions. Our network allows us to separate our consumer traffic from our M2M and IOT-related traffic,” says Mariana Kruger, GM for IOT solutions at MTN Business.
“This is because we understand that, in this environment, the communications that are coming from these machines can include data from power utilities or vehicles in transit. There is a certain level of criticality of that information that applies, as opposed to somebody linking to their next YouTube session, for example,” adds Kruger.
In November 2016, both MTN and Vodacom announced plans to use new NB-IOT technology and both have continued to invest in the expansion of their IOT offerings over the past year.
Kruger says MTN Business has started to experiment with low power wide area networks (NB-IOT and CatM1) in urban areas, which the operator is rolling out into its network.
“What this technology allows us to do is to use dedicated communication channels to speak to devices. The frequency or spectrum allocated can strengthen the signal to these devices. For example, a normal GSM signal can only penetrate two metres through a wall.
“On the other hand, NB-IOT technology focuses specifically on wider and deeper coverage, which enables a large number of devices to be connected. Using NB-IOT, we aim to achieve up to eight metres through walls,” Kruger explains.
She says that in Australia, line of sight tests have shown they can achieve 20km of coverage.
“At this stage, we are unable to divulge whether we have replicated what these tests have achieved, but our results are very encouraging,” Kruger adds.
In May 2016, Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub told ITWeb that IOT was one of three new growth pillars the telco was focusing on to capture new revenue streams. A year ago, Vodacom said it had started its NB-IOT network build, and planned to commercially launch in major metropolitan areas across SA in 2017. In June this year, it opened an NB-IOT laboratory at its Midrand campus “to commercialise machine-to-machine and IOT systems using narrowband low power”.
Kruger says that whether businesses choose to adopt IOT or not, technology is already going down that road.
IOT solutions have a wide range of capabilities and MTN Business has deployed LPWAN technologies in a game reserve to help combat rhino poaching. It also has an IOT solution called Cargo Connect that aims to fight hijackings in the transportation, logistics and fleet industry. Last year, MTN and Huawei showcased an NB-IOT smart water metering solution, which can remotely and accurately collect meter data.Discover More