China Telecom Offers NB-IoT Nationwide

China Telecom has built the world’s largest NB-IoT network so far by upgrading 310,000 base stations across China to support NB-IoT. The operator is using the low power wide area technology to provide commercial services to customers for a wide range of use cases, including smart metering, connecting consumer appliances, smart parking, environment monitoring, smart lighting, and bike sharing services. Hundreds of thousands of devices have already been connected using NB-IoT and China Telecom expects that figure to rise rapidly.

China Telecom is looking to NB-IoT to drive a massive expansion in the Internet of Things, which it regards as a major growth engine for the industry. It is using the 800MHz spectrum band, which is being refarmed for 4G in China and enables good in-building penetration and very wide coverage.

China Telecom charges a fee of about ¥20 (about US$3) per year per connection. The new package breaks the traditional charging mode; it is in line with NB-IoT’s large connection and low traffic network characteristics; and it has been well received by customers after the launch.

On October 2017, China Telecom has just purchased half Million NB-IoT modules, and reduced the price of each NB-IoT module to $5, which was very closed to GSM modules. Although China Telecom still provided subsidies for NB-IoT modules, their strong guidance has played an important role in reducing the cost of modules and terminals, and made great contribution to the global NB-IoT ecology.

Strong demand for smart metering

The nationwide commercial deployment, which took six months, followed on from pilots with Shenzhen Water Group and Shenzhen Gas, which verified an end-to-end NB-IoT smart metering solution. Water and energy meters are generally located indoors, where it can be hard to receive a signal from a conventional base station. The Shenzhen pilots, which involved collecting data from hundreds of water meters and gas meters, have now evolved into commercial deployments.

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.

By the end of 2018, China Telecom expects to have millions of NB-IoT devices connected to its network. The operator also plans to deploy LTE-M.

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