Spark rolls out LoRa IoT network in New Zealand

14 Dec 2017

New Zealand telecoms operator Spark is building a low range (LoRa) IoT network to enable the Internet of Things (IoT) in the country’s most populated urban centers.

The operator announced yesterday it has switched on sites in Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland in the lead up to Christmas. A further 16 cities will be connected early in 2018, Spark said.

Spark plans to expand its LoRa network to cover around 70% of New Zealand’s population by mid-2018. The company is building over 100 new LoRa sites in 20 towns across New Zealand and plans to significantly extend coverage in urban and rural areas over the next two years.

The network will allow businesses and local councils to connect to "things", like waterways, traffic lights, and machinery. Sensors in these real-world objects will send information over the LoRa network, providing real-time insight into the infrastructure New Zealand cities run on.

Spark has been trialing LoRa network technology for the past year, and now has over 30 operational sites across Auckland, Waikato, Christchurch and Wellington. The New Zealand incumbent has been testing the technology with partners from a range of industries, from agriculture through to marine, including BoatSecure and Beacon Marine Electronics.

Farmers from the Matamata-Piako region and South Island have also been trialing the network for the past year as part of the Connecting Farms project. Data sent from sensors across the farm has helped inform important decisions for farmers, such as when to irrigate, spray or harvest, Spark said.

Extending the LoRa network to rural New Zealand

In addition to the country’s urban centers, Spark also plans to extend the LoRa network to rural parts of the Waikato, Manawatu and Canterbury in 2018. Resource monitoring company Levno are working with Spark to have coverage extended into rural areas.

Levno plans to use the network to provide fuel tank, grain silo and milk vat monitoring services to farmers. This will enable farmers to react quickly to issues and increase the efficiency of their operations, Spark said.

Spark said its nationwide LoRa network is being built by Kordia. Actility also provides its ThingPark Wireless platform to enable customers to monitor, control and capture information from their IoT devices, while Kerlink is supplying the box and antenna gateways.

The LoRa network will suit low-power, low-data uses, complementing the high-power LTE network (LTE Cat-M1) that Spark began trials on this month.

By 2020 the company’s IoT networks will cover around 80% of New Zealand’s population, Spark said.

The operator is also monitoring the global progress of the emerging 3GPP-compliant Narrow Band (NB-IoT) standard and will invest in it when the use cases and ecosystem for NB-IoT become more mature.

"There will be so many different uses of IoT, so we’re seeking to provide the broadest set of IoT options to customers,” Spark GM IoT Solutions Michael Stribling said.

“To do this, we’re making sure New Zealand has access to a range of world class networks and management platforms. We’re also continuing to take advantage of the data analytics power of Qrious, to help make sense of all the information coming our way as our environment begins talking to us."

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