You can’t move in this country this week without someone talking about the Internet of Things.
Last Thursday Communications Minister Simon Bridges spoke at a Wellington event about a report commissioned by the New Zealand IoT Alliance. He quoted the report saying the IoT could be worth $2 billion to the economy over ten years. You might expect an organisation set up to ‘accelerate the adoption of the IoT’ to talk up the technology’s prospects. Even so there’s a lot of money at stake.
On Monday morning Vodafone said it will roll-out an IoT network early next year in anticipation of an explosion in demand. Vodafone is using Narrowband-IoT, a low-power wide area network. It uses dedicated, licenced spectrum. Vodafone says it is secure and will cover vast geographic areas.
Three hours later Spark announced its plans for a narrowband IoT network which is says will be in operation by this time next year.
The big telcos will join two existing IoT networks already in operation here. Wellington-based KotahiNet and Australia's Thinxtra.
Vodafone technology director Tony Baird describes his company's NB-IoT as a premium technology. He says: "It is supported by over 40 of the world’s largest mobile operators plus many more suppliers and innovators that serve the majority of the global IoT market.”
The IoT is all about connecting sensors and other devices to the network. This is something Vodafone has been doing for some time now. The company already has more than 1.4 million devices on its 2G phone network.
Vodafone says the NB-IoT is based on the same technology. The company has already tested NB-IoT in the field in a trial with Nokia, its technology partner for the project.
Spark is also working on a narrowband network that has evolved from cellular phone technology. It is working with Kordia to build the network.
The company is using its Connected Farms project to roll-out pilot IoT capabilities on farms in the Waikato.
Vodafone and Spark have several things going for them. They have brand recognition, market power and a considerable installed based to call on. Both have signification infrastructure already in place.
Vodafone also has the benefit of a global organisation able to quickly make use of knowledge learned overseas.
Spark's trump card is the link with its Qrious big data and analytics operation. IoT sensors can produce a huge volume of data and helping customers make sense of that is expected to be a lucrative way of adding value.
However, the telcos don't have it all their own way. KotahiNet has already staked out ground with its $1 per sensor per month easy to understand flat fee approach. That may yet be important in this market. When you're dealing with thousands of devices, the cost per unit can be significant.