Vodafone widens reach with UK narrowband IoT coverage

UK mobile network operator announces NB-IoT infrastructure expansion to support ongoing investments in platforms and services that will support the growing number of businesses implementing such technology to increase operational efficiency and grow new revenues

In response to growing customer demand, UK operator Vodafone has doubled the number of sites in its narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) network and says its coverage now reaches 98% of the UK.

Vodafone said it had invested in IoT because of its potential to transform UK business through data-based insights. It can be used to improve existing operations and launch new products and services.

The operator said it had seen increased demand across numerous industries for the low-power, wide-area network (LPWAN) technology, designed to enable efficient communication across wide geographical footprints, or deep within urban infrastructure.

NB-IoT supports long battery life and reduced costs for devices with low data demand and sees use in applications where the lowest possible connectivity cost is essential to the viability of the business case. Use cases include industrial and commercial metering, water monitoring, asset tracking and smart city applications, including air quality monitoring.

In making the business case for NB-IoT, Vodafone sees the technology as offering a number of benefits over utilising mobile networks for certain use cases and devices, especially with regard to lifetime of devices and batteries, which it says can be extended to as long as 10 years; reduced cost of modems and devices, also meaning reduced overall capital expenditure; more scalable and lower cost of deployment; extended coverage due to lower signal requirements for data transmission; and lower maintenance requirements for devices in remote and inaccessible locations.

Another perceived advantage of NB-IoT is coverage beyond the traditional mobile footprint, as the network is designed for devices with lower bandwidth requirements. For use cases where lower signal is sufficient (-128dBm), Vodafone assures that its NB-IoT network will exceed 98% geographical coverage indoors and outdoors. For stronger signal requirements (-118dBm), it reaches 87% geographical coverage indoors and outdoors. For those areas not yet covered by the NB-IoT network, Vodafone said it would work with customers to upgrade and add infrastructure on a case-by-case basis.

The IoT platform is hosted in Vodafone’s secure environment and can be refined for each use case or customer, making IoT more accessible to more companies. The NB- IoT network is already being used by customers across multiple industries, including SES Water and United Utilities to detect leaks in underground pipes and other infrastructure.

NB-IoT is a part of our network that is often overlooked, but it but it is becoming increasingly important, bringing data from a growing variety of devices to power decision-making in more organisations,” said Vodafone UK business director Anne Sheehan.

“This is a network which has been designed for low-bandwidth devices, allowing for coverage that goes beyond 4G, and devices where battery life could be extended to as long as 10 years.

“In IoT, customers might want to use our 4G network for real-time, data-intensive analytics, while others might need a connectivity solution for non-time-sensitive use cases, such as environmental monitoring. We have invested in NB-IoT because we want to offer our customers the right tools for the right job, in a way which is affordable and accessible for every customer,” said Sheehan.

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