Competition in New Zealand for the provision of wireless network connectivity for IoT is getting fierce with Vodafone NZ announcing plans for a NB-IoT network and Spark announcing plans for a nationwide LoRaWAN network on the same day, and foreshadowing plans for NB-IoT as well as Cat-M1 deployments on its cellular network.

Spark’s GM for IoT, Michael Stribling said, “We believe that there are different use cases emerging for different IoT networks, depending on the level and type of data that needs to be transmitted by IoT devices.

“In making an investment in LoRa, in addition to its LTE investments, Spark believes it will be in position to provide the broadest set of IoT solutions to its customers.”

These new networks will be in addition to the Sigfox network being rolled out by Australia’s Thinxtra (part owned by NZ Technology company Rakon) and the LoRaWAN network being rolled out by Kotahinet.

Thinxtra claimed to have coverage of 88 percent of the NZ population at the end of March and, according to the Kotahinet website, its network covers 75 percent of the population.

Vodafone says it will deploy NB-IoT in early 2018 “to prepare for an expected surge in IoT applications over the coming years.”

It tested IoT on its network with technology partner Nokia in September 2016 and says its next step will be to pilot the technology with a select group of business customers in late 2017 before a network roll out in early 2018.

“This pilot programme will see software deployed across selected cell sites, taking advantage of state-of-the art network testing facilities inside Vodafone xone,” Vodafone said.

Xone is an annual accelerator programme offering funding packages worth $150,000 that include cash, office space, workshops, events, and network access to the 10 startups selected to join the programme. It was launched in 2016.

Road toll technology company EROAD has been named as a trial customer of Vodafone’s NB-IoT network with CEO Steven Newman saying that, because NB-IoT, is built to a global standard, products developed in New Zealand will be compatible in multiple global markets.

Spark LoRaWAN operation in 2018

Spark said it expected to have a “significant proportion” of its LoRaWAN network operational by June 2018, enabling sensors and devices to be connected over the LoRa network nationwide.

Stribling said the company was moving to take a leadership position in IoT because it already had a lot of capabilities needed to make the most of a more connected world.

“We have the world-class network, we have the platforms, and we have the big data analytics power of Qrious [a data analytics company set up by Spark in 2014] to make sense of the torrent of information that will be created from networks of sensors connecting the things around us.

“The network we are rolling out is being developed by Kordia, who have commenced initial network design in preparation for the network build.”

Kordia working with Thinxtra and Spark on IoT

This puts Kordia in an interesting position. Not only is it rolling out Thinxtra’s Sigfox network, it is also reselling the network. Thinxtra announced in April 2016: “Kordia is Thinxtra’s preferred partner for the deployment of a Sigfox network and has official channel partner status to resell connections and solutions on this network.”

Spark has also engaged French company Actility to “provide a platform and support the deployment of the network.”

In February 2017, Australian LoRaWAN network operator National Narrowband Network Company (NNNCo) announced that it had contracted Actility to roll out its network.

Actility, founded in 2010, has developed an IoT platform specific for LoRaWAN, ThingPark, that it claims underpins more than half the national LPWA network rollouts globally.

ThingPark is described as “a central IoT management service to connect sensors to applications with bidirectional interactions … a data analytics and control framework which exposes data from connected things to applications [that] connects with cloud platforms, and also offers off the shelf IoT industrial applications.”