Velcom Brings NB-IoT to Belarus

After upgrading its networks across Belarus to support NB-IoT, velcom is now signing the first commercial contracts with customers. Part of the Telecom Austria Group, velcom is rolling out the Mobile IoT technology in the 900MHz spectrum band enabling it to provide broad coverage both indoors and outdoors.

The Minsk-based operator says that the low cost of NB-IoT connectivity will help it broaden its enterprise portfolio. The mobile operator sees strong demand for low cost wide area connectivity from the water, energy, agriculture and forestry sectors, in particular, as businesses looks to automate their processes and gain insights that will help them reduce waste and improve efficiency. Having secured the necessary license, velcom has activated NB-IoT on 110 of the 750 base stations serving the 2.5 million inhabitants of the capital Minsk.  Following a software upgrade, these base stations now support NB-IoT, as well as GSM and 3G.

The mobile operator expects water metering to be one of the first major commercial applications for NB-IoT, as unbillable leakage is a major problem for utilities in Belarus. By installing smart metres connected by NB-IoT, water suppliers can monitor consumption in much greater detail and detect where and when water is being lost. Within three years, more than one million NB-IoT connected water metres could be installed in and around the capital.

In the energy sector, NB-IoT-connected smart metres would enable utilities to charge customers according to how much gas they consume, rather than the square footage of the property. This change would motivate householders to conserve energy, reducing the amount of natural gas Belarus has to import.

In Belarus’ large agricultural sector, NB-IoT promises to enable farmers to monitor the location and condition of their livestock and crops. For foresters, NB-IoT-connected sensors will increase the level of control of daily operations.

An evolving commercial proposition

Rather than publishing standard tariff-plans, velcom is offering businesses tailor-made contracts, encompassing more than just the connectivity. To provide end-to-end solutions, the telecoms operator is working with a variety of partners to package together connected sensors with cloud-based software that can collect and analyse the data being captured by the Mobile IoT networks. Its chipset and module suppliers include u-blox, Quectel and Qualcomm.

Although there are now a broad selection of NB-IoT chipsets and modules available, velcom believes prices will need to fall further to enable it to meet the demand in Belarus for very low cost connectivity solutions. As the ecosystem gains economies of scale, velcom expects its NB-IoT network to begin supporting thousands of connections across Belarus during 2018.

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