IoT is more than vapourware, insists GSMA

Nine NB-IoT deployments across the UK? Be still, our fluttering hearts

LPWAN Forum The head of the GSMA’s Internet of Things division was not happy to hear IoT networking technology described as “vapourware” this afternoon at LPWAN Forum London.

Shane Rooney gave a brief talk to a roomful of well-lunched delegates about what the GSMA is doing to promote IoT networking tech.

As part of his talk he showed the rather torpid audience a video about the GSMA’s efforts, cheerfully noting that it wouldn’t take up too much of anyone’s flagging brainpower.

After the video and Rooney’s quick verbal summary, the real fun started. Bill Harpley of Brighton-based Astius Technologies said: “IoT technology is vapourware. How can you substantiate your claim that an ecosystem is in place?”

Vague noises of support rolled from the back of the room.

A surprised Rooney parried: “I would disagree that it’s vapourware. Can you define what vapourware is?”

Harpley, to a background susurration of suddenly wide awake delegates whispering among themselves, shot back: “Mainly PSAs [public service announcements] and no product.”

“We have over… nine NB-IoT [Narrowband IoT] customer trials with modules going on right now,” returned Rooney, quick on his feet.

“That’s not many,” sniffed Harpley.

“That’s quite a lot,” countered Rooney, clearly unimpressed. Most of the audience, however, seemed to agree with Harpley.

“I didn’t say there was a commercial rollout,” continued Rooney. “Trials are going on with customers. You do a trial with customers and then you do a rollout.”

This refers to Vodafone’s repeatedly announced deployment of NB-IoT for connecting IoT devices. It appears to be the GSMA’s favoured IoT networking standard after its ratification by the 3GPP in June; Rooney’s promotional video featured a long segment focusing on Vodafone’s trial deployment of NB-IoT in Spain for a municipal water company.

Later speakers at LPWAN Forum pointed out that NB-IoT’s power requirements mean it is probably not well suited to applications with very long lifespans, such as remote industrial or rural sensors.

As for the vapourware question? Harpley was right, up to a point. There isn’t much going on with NB-IoT at the moment in the UK, and while Vodafone has promised to roll it out in the Netherlands, the company has been rather quiet about developments in the UK.

So far the other UK mobile network operators too have been quiet about IoT, despite some boilerplate marketing spiel in dusty corners of their websites. ®

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