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Vodafone in interoperability tests for NB-IoT modules on its mobile network

Vodafone has been testing the interoperability of Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) modules from several vendors on its networks as it seeks to promote its own mobile network as a base for IoT applications. The company is currently in a process it calls Interoperability Development Testing (IODT).

NB-IoT is a form of Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technology, which aims to enable a wider range of devices and services to be connected using cellular networks. The technology provides a more efficient way to connect devices – saving battery life and also enabling devices such as gas meters, water meters and parking monitors to connect from underground.

Last year, standards body 3GPP completed the standardisation of NB-IoT in just nine months, and since then Vodafone has been working with its partners in a bid to prepare its networks to support low power, wide area services for IoT.

In February, it deployed what it called the world’s first commercial NB-IoT service through a remote software upgrade of over 1,000 existing 4G base stations in six cities in Spain: Valencia, Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Malaga and Seville. It’s since worked with its partners Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia and Affirmed Networks to extend the reach of NB-IoT to Vodafone networks and to some of its partners’ networks around the world.

The company then carried out its Interoperability Development Testing.

“We have tested devices from Neul and Qualcomm against Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia systems in multiple regions. All of these vendors’ NB-IoT Radio Access Network (RAN) technology has been successfully interconnected with Vodafone’s IoT core network,” said Luke Ibbetson, Vodafone Group’s head of research and development and technology strategy said.

Vodafone’s partnership with Nokia and Ericsson is critical, as the two companies had partnered on a different type of product which worked in the same spectrum as 4G, while Vodafone and Huawei developed a product that doesn’t work alongside 4G.

Now, it has been able to verify the interconnection capability between Huawei’s NB-IoT RAN, Vodafone’s IoT core network and all commercial NB-IoT modules, for example.

Vodafone said that as vendor roadmaps mature over the coming months, it expects more devices to be tested and approved.

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