SoftBank expects great things from the Internet of Things (IoT), deploying both Cat-M1 and NB-IoT in Japan, with Ericsson supplying the Evolved Packet Core.
SoftBank plans to deploy Cat-M1 and NB-IoT networks nationwide, aiming to be first in its market with commercial cellular IoT services. Ericsson delivers Cat-M1 support as a software upgrade to SoftBank's existing Evolved Packet Core, and NB-IoT is using the Ericsson virtual Evolved Packet Core and Cloud Execution Environment.
Built using industry standards, Ericsson says its Massive IoT network solutions for Cat-M1 and NB-IoT-enabled IoT devices have advantages, including low cost, low power consumption, deep coverage, massive connections and high reliability of transmission. Combined with existing LTE coverage, SoftBank can deploy a range of IoT services in smart cities, logistics, utilities, medicine, transport, mining, agriculture, manufacturing and more.
"Ericsson's solutions in Cat-M1 and NB-IoT technology ensure that we will be able to go to market with highly competitive commercial cellular IoT services and play a role in leading the growth of the IoT market in Japan," Junichi Miyakawa, executive vice president and CTO of SoftBank, said in a press release.
SoftBank appears to be covering all its bases for IoT. Last year, the operator said it would deploy a LoRaWAN network in the first phase of its IoT strategy, working with Actility, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. and Semtech Corporation. SoftBank also pledged to deploy a full set of LPWA networks, including Cat-M1 and NB-IoT, to ensure that it can efficiently comply with differing environments.
During his keynote at Mobile World Congress 2017 in February, SoftBank founder, Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son talked about the intelligence that will be enabled by the IoT, predicting that the number of IoT devices with intelligence will eventually grow to 1 trillion.
At that same trade show, Ericsson highlighted the outcomes of a NB-IoT trial with China Mobile where a connected high-precision screwdriver was equipped with motion sensors attached to NB-IoT modules to transmit real-time data. The purpose of the demonstration was to show how several low-power, wide-area (LPWA) use cases are being implemented in a factory, such as production line monitoring, warehouse monitoring and package and materials tracking.
But Light Reading, citing a number of industry sources, reports that interoperability problems between Ericsson and Huawei are hindering the rollout of NB-IoT services, which would effectively mean there’s more than one “version” of NB-IoT, making it less desirable. Ericsson and Huawei sources to the publication indicated they were not aware of any long-standing interoperability issue, but “late-stage” changes were reportedly made to the standard.
Here in the U.S., Verizon has rolled out LTE Cat M1 nationwide, claiming that as a first, and AT&T is not far behind, with plans to roll out LTE Cat M1 in the second quarter of 2017.