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Huawei to deploy NB-IoT to full market early 2017

Mon 31 Oct 2016

Chinese tech multinational Huawei has announced that it will commercialise its Narrow-Band Internet of Things (NB-IoT) framework and technologies early in 2017, including the release of its System On a Chip (SoC) commercial processor, Boudica.

The Shenzhen-based company announced the wider-launch of the much-trialled offering, which has had a limited release this year, at the eco-CONNECT Europe 2016 conference in Paris.

Narrowband IoT operates at sub-gigahertz frequencies within the anticipated 3GPP standards, with the ambit of provisioning low-data devices and sensors with very low power requirements. Currently, it can operate at full effectiveness, depending on configuration, at only 200kHz. 1800Mhz and 1900Mhz standards are expected later; in the meantime, NB-IoT can also run at 450, 850 and 900Mhz frequencies.

In the release Jiang Wangcheng, Vice President of Huawei’s Marketing and Solutions Department commented: “NB-IoT has unique advantages in supporting IoT applications. Huawei will help carriers accelerate the commercial adoption of NB-IoT and the maturing of the industry chain.”

The system has been tested in various collaborations, including a smart parking scheme, water and utilities smart monitoring collaborations, and domestic IoT.

The full-circle offering includes: eNodeB Base stations that can be easily adapted to NB-IoT; the Smart Device Solution featuring the company’s stripped-down IoT operating system; and an IoT packet core that will allow flexible deployment of Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) and Core In A Box.

Huawei is conducting a further large commercial trial in this final quarter of 2016, with wide commercial deployment anticipated for ‘early 2017’.

The company’s ‘Lite OS’ IoT-centric operating system launched in May, concentrating on the provision of its open source framework and cloud services rather than the more ephemeral and unpredictable devices and sensors market.

NB-IoT has arisen in an Asian hothouse atmosphere of IoT infrastructure, with rival offerings from Chinese internet group Tencent and an announcement at the time of writing that Nokia and M1 are conducting Singapore’s first NB-IoT trial. Singtel and Ericsson have also provided competition in the narrowband IoT space this year, with trials of an IoT-centric 4G LTE network.

Accompanying the roll-out is the launch of Boudica, the first 3GPP-based NB-IoT commercial chip, which boasts ultra-low power consumption and high levels of integration. Additionally, Huawei is releasing a software suite called SoftRadio, which will give developers access to NB-IoT’s open labs, in order to facilitate commissioning and development. Wangcheng says “Huawei is committed to creating a bigger connectivity market so industry players, as well as consumers, can benefit from new opportunities and services. The IoT project and the success achieved so far fully demonstrate this commitment of ours.”

Wangcheng has described the NB-IoT space as “one of the key untapped markets for operators.”

Huawei, still little-known in the crucial American market, has been described by Forbes as a ‘sleeping giant’ of the coming IoT revolution, and has been laying the groundwork for its own IoT network offering in the past three years; in 2014 it acquired Cambridge-based narrowband IoT startup Neul and further bolstered its Brit-centric R&D efforts with the purchase of an Ipswich-based photonics research laboratory. Pre-existing work from Neul seems to have been developed and greatly expanded on in the development of Boudica.

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