China Telecom pilots NB-IoT for smart metering applications in Shenzen

China Telecom is piloting NB-IoT to enable smart water and gas metering on a pre-commercial network in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. The operator is using NB-IoT in 800MHz spectrum to collect data from 140 water meters and 50 gas meters in partnership with Shenzhen Water Group and Shenzhen Gas respectively. The pilots are designed to verify an end-to-end NB-IoT solution, including the terminals, base stations, core network, IoT platform and service application. China Telecom is using Huawei network equipment, chipsets and software, and Quectel modules.

In the third quarter of 2016, China Telecom began by testing a pre-standard version of NB-IoT before deploying the standardised technology in the fourth quarter. The operator believes that NB-IoT can offer utility companies deeper indoor coverage, lower power consumption and lower cost modules than conventional cellular technologies. Water and energy meters are generally located indoors, where it can be hard to receive a signal from a conventional base station. China Telecom sees particularly strong demand from water companies for metering, pipe network monitoring and water quality monitoring services, which can help them to manage their infrastructure and upgrade their services, while reducing operating costs.

Key learnings

In the pilots, China Telecom is testing the coverage, capacity, power consumption and cost-effectiveness of NB-IoT. It has found that NB-IoT provides excellent coverage, enabling signals to reach most indoor locations. However, the pilot has highlighted the need for operators to work closely with smart meter providers to optimise the antenna design.

Next steps

The gas metering pilot will run through the first quarter of 2017. China Telecom and Shenzhen Water Group are expanding the water metering pilot by increasing the number of connected meters to about 1,300 by the end of February 2017. The operator plans to launch the service commercially at the end of June.

In 2017, China Telecom also plans to deploy NB-IoT connectivity for smart agriculture, smart parking, air quality monitoring and asset management applications, if it can secure sufficient modules and chipsets.

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