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Utility company picks NB-IoT, actively spurns rival techs' USPs

'Plug-and-play' connectivity tech sealed the deal, says firm

A utility company has opted for Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) connectivity technology for its IoT deployment, crapping all over competing connectivity techs in the process.

"We looked at proprietary technologies in the early days because NB-IoT didn't exist. We came to the realisation that we wanted to stick to our core business and didn't want to be running our own communications network," Andrew Forest-Knight of Aussie water firm South East Water told local website IoT Hub.

One of the biggest USPs of non NB-IoT connectivity technologies, particularly LoRaWAN, is that you effectively run your own local mobile network for your IoT sensors and devices. This, they say, makes you independent from third parties and insulates customers from external price hikes and the like.

On the flip side, as South East Water says, this lands you with a significant investment in in-house expertise to maintain and upgrade that network as required.

"We want to run water and wastewater services, so when the plug-and-play vision came about with NB-IoT in late 2015 it was really attractive to us, so we followed that path," continued Forest-Knight, the utility firm's GM of intelligent systems.

Virtually every IoT conference in the industrialised world includes endless case studies of how utility companies have rolled out IoT networks for monitoring their assets. To see a utility company discarding build-your-own-IoT-network tech in favour of the mobile network operators' preferred technology is significant.

South East Water's IoT networks are said to have been rolled out over Vodafone infrastructure, the telco having the only LTE base stations in the area that have received the software upgrade necessary to support NB-IoT. Vodafone has gone all in on NB-IoT across its worldwide operations, though its planned European commercial deployments have been beset by delays, which the telco has declined to explain. It seems likely this is because of a straightforward lack of market demand.

So far the UK has no commercial NB-IoT network in operation, though quite a few towns and cities have rolled out LoRaWAN networks aimed at app developers and others with an experimental interest.

The two leading NB-IoT competitors, LoRaWAN and Sigfox, have made slow but steady progress gaining market share – one notable example being that of Jersey Telecom, which rolled out an experimental LoRa network on the island last year. ®

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