GSMA CTO predicts faster LPWA rollouts after 3GPP ratification

GSMA CTO Alex Sinclair said an agreement on common low power, wide area (LPWA) technologies by the 3GPP will accelerate the deployment of commercial Internet of Things (IoT) products and services.

The 3GPP announced this week that it has completed standardisation of three LPWA technologies within Release 13 (LTE Advanced Pro) specifications: NB-IoT, eMTC, and EC-GSM-IoT. The standards group stated the trio of technologies will enable operators to address different sectors of the broader IoT market.

GSMA CTO Sinclair said the agreement of common standards will benefit mobile operators that have already begun trialling LPWA IoT technologies, and provide a greater choice for customers.

"The GSMA established the Mobile IoT Initiative with the specific purpose of aligning the mobile industry behind common and complementary LPWA technologies in licensed spectrum, and we are pleased that the industry has moved so quickly to adopt them and that they have now been ratified by 3GPP," Sinclair commented.

In a statement, the GSMA noted that LPWA networks complement conventional wide-area IoT networks based on 2G, 3G and 4G cellular technologies.

The association explained that cellular operators will now be able to utilise the EC-GSM-IoT specification to optimise their 2G networks for IoT uses. Operators can combine the eMTC element with their LTE networks (LTE-MTC), while NB-IoT will work on existing 2G and 4G spectrum "to deliver a secure, reliable and robust performance."

Operators including Telekom Austria and Vodafone have separately announced progress in the field of NB-IoT in recent weeks. The Austrian operator revealed it has conducted its first demonstration of the technology in conjunction with Nokia, while Vodafone announced it is continuing to upgrade its core and radio networks with a view to launching the technology commercially in 2017.

However, the cellular IoT technologies in licensed spectrum will still face competition from unlicensed, proprietary LPWA options, including Sigfox, Ingenu, and the LoRA Alliance.

Sigfox, for example, this month announced that it has extended its network to six European countries through a deployment for Irish telecoms provider VT Networks. Prior to that, the company announced a rollout in Finland, which it said is the 19th country globally where its network is already operating or being deployed.

For more:
- see this GSMA statement
- read the 3GPP's announcement

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