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Orange to test CIoT ahead of LoRa launches

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Orange is planning to test cellular IoT technology on its 2G and LTE networks and has expanded the reach of its Datavenue big data platform.

The French operator is working on launching a LoRa-based IoT network in 2016. The trial of cellular tech will be conducted with Ericsson by the end of this year.

Orange said the trial would focus on bringing coverage to difficult areas, such as basements, as well as look at how sensor life can be extended.

The test will use Orange's 900MHz spectrum and aims to increase device penetration by up to 20dB - or sevenfold the current range. It said the technology would benefit smart meters, which are typically installed underground, as well as agriculture or infrastructure monitoring, both of which usually take place in remote areas.

Another advantage of the technology, both companies claimed, was that it will reduce device complexity and cost. Cellular networks will be able to roll out the service through a software upgrade, with hardware investment not needed.

Ericsson said a second test would happen in parallel with chipset manufacturer Sequans, fitted with one receive antenna instead of the standard two. By using this antenna and half-duplex FDD, Ericsson said operators could reduce the cost of rolling out networks by 60 percent, compared to existing LTE Category 4 standards.

A power saving mode on both GSM and LTE networks will increase the battery life on sensors by up to 10 years.

Work is underway at 3GPP to standardise cellular IoT, with two different types of technology fighting for dominance. The first of these networks is expected to launch in 2017. Earlier this month, a Vodafone exec criticised the pace of standardisation as being too slow.

Alain Maloberti, SVP of Orange Labs Networks, said: "IoT is a key area in Orange's Essentials2020 strategic plan, and France should play a key role in IoT take-off in Europe. In order to extend our connectivity offer, we are currently deploying a LoRa network.

"At the same time, we are preparing the future of cellular networks and we are happy to collaborate with Ericsson to be the first operator to demonstrate IoT over GSM and LTE in order to roll it out ahead of 5G availability in the market."

Orange also said it was extending its Datavenue platform to businesses, after initially focusing on start-ups. The big data platform was launched last year.

The French operator said the platform would allow enterprises to benefit from the data produced by IoT networks.

It also launched a LoRa-based starter kit for companies wishing to test IoT technology. It can be used in Orange's existing IoT network in Grenoble and two sites in Paris.