China Mobile rolls out NB-IoT in five cities

China Mobile has deployed and piloted NB-IoT networks in many cities in China. The country’s largest mobile operator has established pre-commercial NB-IoT networks in Yingtan, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, and Shanghai, with each network consisting of more than 100 base stations. The rollout of NB-IoT is part of China Mobile’s “Big Connectivity” strategy for the years 2016 to 2020. The operator is using the 900MHz band for NB-IoT, which it also employs for 2G services.

The new networks are supporting a range of use cases, including smart parking, smart metering and agricultural applications, such as greenhouse monitoring. Early in 2017, China Mobile piloted NB-IoT to enable smart parking, smart lighting and water quality monitoring in several locations in China. In the pilots, China Mobile found that NB-IoT can cost-effectively deliver extensive coverage, while supporting large numbers of connections and consuming little

At the end of March 2017, China Mobile expanded its pilots into large-scale network trials. Those trials are being used to optimise the network, refine the end-to-end proposition and hone the business case for specific applications.  The NB-IoT ecosystem is expanding rapidly in China, with NB-IoT chipsets and modules readily available.

The operator says NB-IoT technology will be used both to replace existing connectivity, such as GPRS, and for entirely new use cases. It anticipates NB-IoT will support consumer applications, such as smart wearable devices, as well as enterprise and smart city services.

Next steps

China Mobile plans to launch full commercial NB-IoT services before the end of 2017 and then expand its NB-IoT network nationwide over the next two to three years.

China Mobile also intends to provide LTE-M connectivity, once it has a license from the government. It sees LTE-M supporting a range of IoT services, including consumer propositions, such as connecting wearable devices and trackers for bicycles and consumers.

As part of the Big Connectivity strategy, China Mobile is aiming to add 100 million IoT connections (across all technologies) during 2017.

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