Orange expands LoRa network as Vodafone completes first NB-IoT trial

Internet of Things

Orange and Vodafone have separately revealed the progress each has made recently in the rollout of low power wide area networks (LPWANs), with Orange continuing to focus on LoRa technology in France and Vodafone trialling narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) as the basis for its European Internet of Things (IoT) strategy.

Orange, which has previously indicated it would also deploy cellular-based solutions such as NB-IoT further down the line, said its LoRa network had now been deployed in 18 urban areas including 1,300 towns across France. The next target is to reach 120 urban areas covering 2,600 towns by the end of January 2017.

The operator expects to earn €600 million ($669 million) in revenue from the IoT by 2018. A company spokesperson said they could not elaborate on how much LoRa will contribute to the €600 million target or how much revenue it is currently making from the technology.

Yves Bellego, director of technical and network strategy at Orange, previously told FierceWireless:Europe that the operator deployed LoRa technology in France “because it provides bi-directional connectivity. One benefit of these technologies is to be available now for commercial service.”

However, Bellego added: "We expect that cellular-based solutions will become the most used in few years, but proprietary technologies that are being deployed today will have a good lifetime."

Indeed, Orange stressed that it “has made a substantial contribution to international standards bodies for cellular networks. The goal is to meet all of its customers’ requirements by offering appropriate connectivity solutions.”

For its part, Vodafone has focused on cellular-based NB-IoT from the outset because the technology uses licensed rather than unlicensed spectrum, and falls under the 3GPP standardisation umbrella.

Together with Huawei, the operator recently completed its first NB-IoT trial on a live commercial network in Madrid. The trial used a 4G base station supporting NB-IoT technology and 800 MHz spectrum.

“The test is the last important milestone before the commercial launch of NB-IoT in 2017,” the company said. Vodafone has previously indicated it plans to launch commercial services in several markets during 2017.

Vodafone added that the NB-IoT specification was finalised as a global standard by 3GPP in June 2016 and said it was the first to complete a trial of standardised NB-IoT on a live commercial network.

LoRa is based on the LoRaWAN standard and competes in the IoT market with other vendors such as Sigfox and Ingenu.

Saverio Romeo, principal analyst at Beecham Research, explained that LPWANs “offer a new low cost connectivity option to connect a large number of IoT devices over long distances in a power-efficient and cost-effective way, opening up enormous potential for a new wave of IoT applications.”

In the UK, Beecham Research is also a partner in the Things Connected initiative launched by Digital Catapult that intends to create a national innovation support programme around LPWAN test beds in different UK regions, to “provide UK SMEs, entrepreneurs and communities with the knowledge and skills to harness the technology.”

Beecham Research predicted that by 2020, LPWANs would provide 26 per cent of the total IoT connectivity market with 345 million connections.

For more:
- see this Orangerelease
- see this Vodafone post

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