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Vodacom Group

Vodacom Launches first live NarrowBand IoT Network in Africa

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Vodacom, in partnership with Huawei, have successfully completed the launch of Africa’s first live NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) site which is fully compliant with the standardised 3rd Generation Partnership Project(3GPP) NB-IoT specifications. Vodacom and Huawei were able to implement the NB-IoT launch by way of a software upgrade to an existing 4G base station, illustrating the speed at which Vodacom is capable of executing its NB-IoT rollout. The live site is on the roof of the data centre on Vodacom’s campus in Midrand, Johannesburg.

NB-IoT is a Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) network technology which enables new use cases for IoT solutions. LPWA networks are able to communicate to devices where radio penetration has traditionally not been feasible and with a low power overhead in the communications process. A key characteristic of LPWA devices is power efficiency, resulting in devices being deployed in-field with batteries which could last up to many years. Vodacom’s NB-IoT network runs on its existing licensed spectrum, ensuring integrity of the communications channel as well as the delivery of data from the device to the end point.
Vodacom’s NB-IoT network uses its licensed 900MHz spectrum to maximize signal strength and coverage for its customers. Vodacom’s NB-IoT network is also fully compliant with the recent updates made by 3GPP to the NB-IoT specification during February 2017.

Andries Delport, Vodacom Group's Chief Technology Officer commented:

“Today’s launch of the first live NB-IoT site in Africa demonstrates that Vodacom continues to lead in technology innovation and enables new possibilities for our customers. Our NB-IoT network will be deployed using our existing established network infrastructure, ensuring excellent coverage and reliable connectivity. A large portion of our network will also only require a software upgrade to support the rollout of this technology, which means that deploying NB-IoT further across Vodacom’s existing base stations will be relatively quick driven by demand across wide geographic areas. We have managed to launch new technologies such as NB-IoT despite the severe constraints on spectrum we are facing, particularly with respect to access to additional sub 1GHz spectrum to support mobile broadband.”

The launch of the first live site today, follows Vodacom’s announcement at AfricaCom in Cape Town during November 2016, where it performed a demonstration of the technology and also announced its plans to rollout NB-IoT across major metropolitan areas. Wider rollout of Vodacom’s NB-IoT network is already in progress, and will be opened to commercial customer traffic soon.

Vodacom and Huawei have successfully launched an end to end NB-IoT water metering solution on Vodacom’s campus which is also considered to be the first of its kind in Africa using an actual live NB-IoT site. The solution enables the automation of accurate water meter readings, and in addition also enables real time monitoring of water usage on Vodacom’s campus as well as the detection of leaks. The water meter used for the demonstration supplies water to one of the main buildings on Vodacom’s campus and is connected to Vodacom’s NB-IoT network with an embedded NB-IoT module. The module transmits data at regular intervals back to the water meter application running on its NB-IoT application platform.

“What we witnessed today is only the beginning of the IoT era in South Africa, where sensors are being used to connect society. As a strategic partner of Vodacom, Huawei will continue to help Vodacom build IoT solutions that will expand the business and make our world more connected,” said Stone Shi, MD of Huawei Vodacom Key Account.

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