Mobile industry agrees on technology standards for global LPWA market

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The GSMA has announced that the mobile industry has agreed on technology standards for the emerging Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) market and these standards have been accepted by 3GPP.

Industry alignment over common standards for Narrow Band IoT (NB-IoT), Extended Coverage GPRS and LTE Machine Type Communication will enable operators and their ecosystem partners to capitalise on a market estimated to be worth US$589billion by 2020, according to Machina Research. The complementary technologies, which are set for 3GPP Release 13, are delivered through licensed spectrum and will cover all LPWA use cases, ensuring customer choice and helping the Internet of Things (IoT) market to flourish.

The GSMA’s ‘Mobile IoT Initiative’, supported by 27 of the world’s leading mobile operators, OEMs, chipset, module and infrastructure companies, is now working to accelerate the development of LPWA solutions and will implement multiple global pilots in early 2016 with full commercial solutions starting later in the year. The GSMA will also host a 3GPP ad-hoc working meeting to work towards finalising the details of the agreed NB-IoT standards.

“This is an important step in enabling operators to deliver industry standard solutions by extending their existing managed networks, service platforms and customer management capabilities,” said Alex Sinclair, chief technology officer, GSMA. “The LPWA market is a high-growth area of the IoT and represents a huge opportunity in its development. A common and global vision will remove fragmentation, accelerate the availability of industry standard solutions and help the market to fulfil its potential.”

The members of the recently announced NB-IoT Forum have agreed that this will now be part of the GSMA’s Mobile IoT Initiative and will focus on fostering a global ecosystem for NB-IoT technology. A key element of the forum will be the creation of ‘Open IoT Labs’ that will be available to any operator, module vendor or application provider and are designed to develop and accelerate the commercial availability of LPWA technology as well as encourage organisations to create NB-IoT enabled devices and applications for a variety of different verticals.

“This is a critical milestone and I’m delighted that 3GPP has reached agreement on the technology. The NB-IoT Forum will now support the industry in building an end to end eco-system and preparing for global deployment of this compelling new capability,” said Luke Ibbetson, Vodafone Group research and development director and chair of the NB-IoT Forum.

The Mobile IoT Initiative is designed to accelerate the commercial availability of LPWA solutions in licensed spectrum. LPWA networks are designed for M2M applications that have low data rates, require long battery lives and operate unattended for long periods of time, often in remote locations.

LPWA networks are expected to be used for a variety of applications such as industrial asset tracking, safety monitoring, water and gas metering, smart grids, city parking, vending machines and city lighting. The technology could also be used to connect wearable devices. LPWA modules are expected to be low-cost as well as inexpensive to connect, which will help the market to scale.