New Zealand operator Spark has announced the commercial launch of its nationwide IoT network for businesses across the nation, with coverage reaching 60% of the country’s population.
The IoT network, using the LoRaWAN technology, has been switched on in Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Shannon, Wellington, Nelson, Blenheim, Christchurch and Dunedin. Sites in Hastings and Invercargill will go live in the next few weeks, the telco said in a company statement.
The network consists of gateways and antennas installed on Spark's 4G cell sites. Spark is using Actility's ThingPark Wireless platform, Kerlink's gateways, and Kordia to build and maintain the network.
“Our IoT capability is really gathering pace, and now we’ve got this critical mass of coverage we’re able to make the network commercially available. This is a real milestone for Spark as we help New Zealand organizations win big in IoT,” said Michael Stribling, Spark’s general manager of IoT solutions.
“While we currently have 60% of rural and urban New Zealand covered, we’ll be working to extend that to 70% by July this year. We’re also looking to partner with organizations to extend coverage into areas where they need it.”
With its LoRaWAN IoT network, Spark said, business and local governments can deploy sensors across on a range of objects including vehicles, waterways, rubbish bins, machinery, carparks and livestock, with the sensors sending such information as the volume of rubbish in a public bin or water pH in a stream, over the network to the people managing these objects.
Spark said LoRaWAN technology, which carries small amounts of data over long distances, uses less power than cellular networks, making it an affordable IoT solution.
Compared to cellular connectivity, it works with a wide range of low-cost sensor technologies that are significantly cheaper on average than sensors for cellular networks. The cost to use the network is based on the number of sensors connected, and the number of messages those sensors send each month, the telco explained.
For example it would cost a local farmer around NZ$1.79 ($1.29) per cow each month to track location and body temperatures of their cows using the LoRaWAN IoT network, Spark said.
Spark has been testing LoRaWAN technology on trial sites for well over a year, with partners from a range of industries, including agriculture, marine and smart buildings.
Some of its early adopters of the new commercial network include Levno, which has signed up as Spark’s first customer and will be working with the telco to extend network coverage to other areas. The Pamerston North-based agriculture firm is using Spark’s network to connect its fuel tank monitoring sensors.
NB Smartcities NZ, a local firm offering smart city services, will also use Spark’s connectivity for smart outdoor lighting across the country.
Claus Oustrup, director NB Smartcities NZ said the Spark network enables its council customers to leverage a range of smart city applications in addition to smart light technology.
“For many councils, having real-time data, asset information and being in control of these devices can increase customer service response times and create real benefits for communities. For example, street lighting can account for as many as 50% of call center complaints. By having adaptable street lighting managed with real-time systems, these complaints can be quickly addressed, and their volume decreased,” said Oustrup.
According to Stribling, the new LoRaWAN network will also enable more IoT technologies from overseas, like smart street lighting, to be adopted in New Zealand. At the same time, it is expected to give New Zealand developers of IoT technologies the chance to launch their products locally.
“We’ve worked with the International LoRa Alliance to agree on Asia-Pacific standards so that products developed on LoRaWAN in New Zealand will work the same way on LoRaWAN networks in other countries,” he said.
In addition to LoRaWAN, Spark has also deployed an IoT network using the 3GPP-compliant LTE CAT-M1 standard to cater different use cases. The company is also monitoring the global progress of the emerging Narrow Band (NB-IoT) standard and will invest in it when the use cases and ecosystem for NB-IoT become more mature.
Last week, Spark also kicked off a 5G trial in Wellington, making it the country’s first mobile carrier to do so. The 5G trial came weeks after Spark announced changes to its management team as part of the company’s restructuring.