Are telcos' customers expecting too much of IoT connectivity techs?

Also, here's why LTE-M gained ground over NB-IoT in Europe

Some customers are expecting more than can be realistically delivered with licensed spectrum Internet of Things connectivity technologies, a major European telco has warned.

Suggesting that customers' expectations about what can be achieved with the Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) technology must be managed, Deutsche Telekom's Jens Olejak said: "We have some customers, large customers, who expect they can use NB-IoT for constant locating of objects.

"We've been talking to these customers, telling them, 'Guys, you have to change some of these parameters. All three in conjunction don't work.'"

Olejak's remarks came as part of a panel discussion at Tuesday's LPWA conference in London on the broad topic of what telcos have learned from deploying low-powered wide area network (LPWAN) technology. He was referring to the typical demands of Deutsche Telekom's customers from their IoT equipment: namely, ability to communicate with the network from an indoor location, running from a "small" battery and with a lifespan of at least 10 years.

He added that the telco was always upfront with its customers, advising them it was using "pre-commercial" modules.

Highlighting how customer feedback was that "indoor penetration was better than expected" with NB-IoT, Olejak said: "In terms of data volume... some customers realised they had to change something so it's not feasible to use more than a megabyte per month. For example, almost every company was able to reduce their data volume either by reducing the overhead or reducing [sic] the interval of data." He also mentioned that some customers were trying to use NB-IoT in use cases it is not optimal for, such as live object location tracking.

Although most typical IoT use cases should require data rates measured in the tens of bytes, some telcos think that kilobit data rates are what the technology needs. It appears some customers have interpreted that as a target to beat rather than a limit best not exceeded.

Orange has also been carrying out trials with NB-IoT rival standard LTE-M, which the telco's Ronan Le Bras said it was "very happy" with, both in performance and ease of deployment.

He also revealed why it is that the LTE-M network standard, which has confused most British IoT thinkers by spreading well outside its North American heartlands, has enjoyed such a rapid spread over the last few months, putting it down to "the late arrival of the chipset module for European bands compared to availability for the US band for LTE-M". Adding that "several US operators announced deployment last year", Le Bras said that the flurry of deployments caused chipset makers to "focus on that market".

Le Bras also told the audience that Orange is "pushing for a dual-mode solution" to the problem of switching 2G M2M customers off legacy GPRS-based sensor systems to more modern IoT deployments, especially as mobile network operators start "sunsetting" 2G networks over the next decade.

"We have millions of connections currently that are only using 2G. The question of what's happening with 2G in the next 10 years is not decided on European level yet," said Le Bras. ®

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