Vodafone doubles sites for UK NB-IoT network

  • July 22, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson
SES Water uses Vodafone’s NB-IoT network to detect leaks

Vodafone has doubled the number of sites in its UK NB-IoT network to meet the increasing demand for IoT services. Coverage has reached 98% of its network.

The carrier says that coverage has increased in line with growing demand for IoT services from customers across the country. The network expansion supports ongoing Vodafone investments in IoT platforms and services to support the growing number of businesses implementing IoT technology to increase operational efficiency and grow revenues.

NB-IoT is a low power, wide area network (LPWAN) technology, designed to enable efficient communication across wide geographical footprints, or deep within urban infrastructure. It supports long battery life and reduced costs for devices with low data demand.

Vodafone has seen increased demand across numerous industries for connectivity that can support use cases such as industrial and commercial metering, water monitoring, asset tracking, and smart city applications, including air quality monitoring. NB-IoT supports applications where the lowest possible connectivity cost is essential to the viability of the business case.

NB-IoT has a number of benefits over using mobile networks for certain use cases and devices:

  • Lifetime of devices and batteries can be extended to as long as ten years.
  • Cost of modems and devices is reduced, so overall capital expenditure is lowered.
  • Deployment is more scalable and at lower cost.
  • Coverage is extended due to lower signal requirements for data transmission.
  • Maintenance requirements are lower for IoT devices in remote and inaccessible locations.

Vodafone’s NB-IoT network is already being used across multiple industries, including SES Water and United Utilities to detect leaks in underground pipes and other infrastructure.

With a NB-IoT offering complementing existing mobile coverage, Vodafone can create tailored connectivity for different IoT cases, rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all approach.

“NB-IoT is a part of our network that is often overlooked, but it is becoming increasingly important, bringing data from a growing variety of devices to power decision-making in more organisations,” said Anne Sheehan, business director for Vodafone in the UK. “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 ten years. In IoT, customers might want to use our 4G network for real-time, data-intensive analytics, while others might need connectivity 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.”

One of the advantages 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’s NB-IoT network will exceed 98% geographical coverage, both indoors and outdoors.

For stronger signal requirements (-118dBm), it reaches 87% geographical coverage both indoors and outdoors. For those areas that are not covered by the NB-IoT network today, Vodafone says it will work with users to upgrade and add infrastructure on a case-by-case basis.

Vodafone has 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 products and services. The NB-IoT network, alongside Vodafone’s mobile network, can provide connectivity for devices and assets, while Vodafone’s IoT.nxt platform allows it to work with users at every stage of the journey.

IoT.nxt will offer users every part of an IoT deployment, with a single data management platform, and the capability to integrate old and new devices in one system. The IoT platform s hosted in Vodafone’s secure environment and can be refined for each use case, making IoT more accessible to more companies.