Vodafone Ireland switches on its NB-IoT network for the internet of things

31 Aug 2017

Vodafone Ireland CEO Anne O’Leary with Communications Minister Denis Naughten, TD. Image: Naoise Culhane

Irish operator Vodafone claims that NB-IoT network will transform Ireland into a ‘smart nation’ with potentially millions of connected devices.

Vodafone has become the first mobile network operator to commercially launch a nationwide narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) network in Ireland to connect a myriad of smart machines.

NB-IoT is a low-power wide-area network technology. It is designed to wirelessly connect millions of devices that have low bandwidth requirements.

‘Our latest innovation will provide a head start to Irish businesses and consumers in their race to become truly smart and efficient, radically saving time and money’

The NB-IoT technology has broad support within the mobile industry from 40 global mobile operators, 27 technology vendors and more than 550 mobile IoT innovators.

It both competes against and can complement rival IoT network standards, such as Sigfox.

Connecting the smart nation

The mobile operator said that Irish consumers will see a huge variety of products, services and applications enabled by NB-IoT that will power smart homes, smart factories, smart stores, connected cars and even smart cities.

NB-IoT will also provide benefits to communities in rural Ireland, with a number of advancements in connected health, such as remote healthcare, first-responder connectivity and emergency alert monitoring for the sick or elderly.

Vodafone originally said that NB-IoT would launch in Ireland and the Netherlands in early 2017 but this slipped to later in the summer.

Evolution of IoT

In preparing for this roll-out, Vodafone upgraded its existing 4G base stations to provide nationwide NB-IoT coverage, which will have the ability to run alongside existing 2G, 3G and 4G networks.

The company cited examples of smart rubbish bins, for example, which will be able to alert a local authority when full, reducing cost and improving city cleanliness.

Parking bays can be fitted with sensors, providing drivers with information about where the nearest parking space is available and reducing traffic congestion.

Farmers will be able to monitor and track livestock in real time on a smartphone or tablet.

“The evolution of the internet of things means that there is an urgent need for a low-power way to connect thousands of devices,” said Vodafone CEO Anne O’Leary.

“NB-IoT fits the bill perfectly. We are therefore delighted to be the first Irish operator to provide a fully commercial, nationwide NB-IoT network to our customers.

“Our latest innovation will provide a head start to Irish businesses and consumers in their race to become truly smart and efficient, radically saving time and money.”

She continued: “The NB-IoT network is a standards-based technology and is deployed in the licensed spectrum, which is important from a security perspective. Our service offers specialist security consultancy to provide advisory support and security assessments to ensure that the security and data protection of our customers is protected.”

Last week, Vodafone said it would switch on its NB-IoT network before the end of the year.

The commercial launch of the new network was welcomed by the  Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten, TD.

“This is a significant technology milestone that holds the potential to connect millions of devices and change the way we use and interact with technology. Ireland continues to be at the forefront of such innovation, with this latest roll-out by Vodafone being a true testament to the limitless possibility NB-IoT can offer,” he said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years