Vodafone's new 'Internet of Things' network can make devices go for 10 years on one charge

A Samsung refrigerator equipped with Family Hub 2.0. Source: Tony Yoo/ Business Insider.

Vodafone has beaten its rivals Telstra and Optus in commercially launching a network for connected devices in Australia.

The new Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network is designed especially to connect devices that have low data bandwidth requirements, while requiring less power than existing methods of connectivity.

Vodafone has kicked off the system with coverage in areas around its offices in North Sydney and Port Melbourne, as well as Frankston in south-eastern Melbourne. Next month, the telco will extend the network to Melbourne’s central business district and other suburbs, while December will see some Sydney and Canberra locations covered.

Vodafone enterprise executive general manager Stuart Kelly said the NB-IoT network, which will reach other locations around Australia next year, will allow machines to connect to the internet in ways that were unsustainable on existing networks.

“Devices [are] able to run on batteries for 10 years or more on a single charge. This means there is less need for investment in hardware and resources relating to sourcing and replacing batteries,” said Vodafone enterprise executive general manager Stuart Kelly.

“The result is increased longevity for assets, reducing the need for site visits while devices are being used in the field.”

The NB-IoT network can also work underground or deep within buildings, with Vodafone claiming the reception can penetrate “two to three double-brick walls” and provide coverage up to 30km away from the signal tower.

The first two customers trying out Vodafone’s network were revealed as ASX-listed food handling tech firm CCP Technologies and telemetry provider Metasphere.

CCP’s smart sensors record temperature and other metrics in refrigerated areas to monitor, analyse, report and alert customers on hygiene compliance.

“Australians will see a huge variety of products, services and applications enabled by NB-IoT over the coming years,” said Kelly.

“This will enable society to become smarter and more efficient, massively benefiting the general public as well as businesses. We expect NB-IoT to be a key driver behind Australia’s move towards becoming a smarter, more connected country.”

In February, Telstra announced that it had a limited IoT network running, showing off its potential by pulling in data from plant sensors at the Pooley Wines estate in rural Tasmania all the way to a trade show in Barcelona, Spain. But that Cat-M1 network was not commercially available at the time.

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