Targeting low IoT data applications, Vodafone and Huawei have opened a narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) Open Lab in Newbury, Berkshire.
The companies claim the UK hub to be the first of its kind in the world and that it will be a direct competitor to other wireless network providers such as Sigfox and LoRa.
The lab will allow device, module and chip manufacturers and application developers to test and build new products and applications using NB-IoT technology in a pre-integration testing environment.
Partners and developers will work with Huawei and Vodafone to further NB-IoT designs, including network solution verification, new application innovation, device integration, and product compliance certification.
According to the companies, narrowband technology provides improved network coverage for IoT communications, supports deeper coverage, a large number of connections, while lowering power consumption.
Dr Tony Sammut, senior manager of the future technologies research team at Vodafone Group R&D, said that NB-IoT brings improved coverage, better indoor penetration, lower power consumption and cheaper devices.
He told the audience at the M2M World Congress in London: “NB-IoT is the merger between an operator strengths such as enterprise level reliability, global coverage and roaming, with the IoT.
“[NB-IoT] offers a deeper and wider coverage than normal connectivity solutions like WiFi, Bluetooth, cellular, etc. It has a low device cost and a longer battery life.”
He said that NB-IoT will be built on existing mobile network infrastructure, such as masts, cell sites, baseland hardware, power supplies, and so on, and it will also be based on the same licence spectrum.
Sammut said: “The Open Lab [in Newbury] aims to collect information about trials and pilots to bring out the information to the wider industry. NB-IoT is the industry’s strategic choice for LPWA.”
The first devices connected by NB-IoT technologies are expected in late 2016 or early 2017, following NB-IoT standardisation by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP).
David Wang, president of wireless product line at Huawei, said: “This facility will be crucial in supporting the deployment of NB-IoT globally and contribute to the promotion of its ecosystem.”
Huawei said it plans to open six more facilities around the world, however, it has not disclosed more details about it.
Vodafone has also said that aims to expand the lab’s reach to deliver devices for commercial services and at the same time widen the developer community while engaging more vertical industries in the NB-IoT debate.