Three is to rollout out support for Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) standards across its network, helping it to serve the emerging market for the Internet of Things (IoT).
The operator is targeting organisations in several industries, including utilities, logistics, transport and building management, where the massive deployment of IoT devices will aid digital transformation.
For example, utility companies will be able to improve levels of service, perform more accurate billing, and reduce carbon emissions. Rival BT has helped Northumbrian Water create a smart water network in Sunderland for example.
However many of these deployments are in areas where traditional wireless or wired connectivity is unsuitable. Wi-Fi has the capacity but limited coverage, while traditional cellular networks consume too much power for devices that are designed to last more than five years in the field.
Any time spent performing maintenance of changing batteries is time consuming and expensive, offsetting the efficiency gains afforded by IoT.
LPWA standards such as Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) and LTE-M solve these issues by offering wide coverage with strong indoor penetration, coupled with low power consumption and the ability to operate with a fixed power source. This means they can stay in place for extended periods of time.
Three plans to rollout support for both standards across its network, starting with a pilot at the InTEGReL laboratory, a collaboration between utilities companies, industrial giants and academia in Gateshead. Researchers will deploy wireless devices across an experimental energy network to gather performance data and identify problems.
The pilot is being staged with CKH Innovations Opportunities Development (CKH IOD), a unit set up by Three’s parent CK Hutchison to identify and create digital services across all the businesses in its control.
The learnings from this test, along with deployments in other countries where CK Hutchison operates, will be used to inform Three’s network rollout and the services it offers customers and partners.
“The launch of our LPWA pilot is an exciting development for Three UK, giving our Enterprise customers access to a broader range of services,” declared Darren King, head of business development at Three Wholesale.
“The low power, long battery life and excellent reach of LPWA technology has great potential to support companies in any industry where companies need continuous information from their infrastructure in order to optimise service. We expect that we will be able to start offering LPWA services to a range of industries over the next few years, as we extend the sectors we offer the service in.”
Both NB-IoT and LTE-M will eventually form part of the 5G standard and the GSMA predicts that by 2025 there will be 3.1 billion cellular IoT connections, including 1.8 billion on LPWA networks.