Three UK and CKH Innovations Opportunities Development ( a unit of CK Hutchison’s telecom division) are piloting a low power wide area network (LPWAN).
The company says this is the first step in a nationwide roll out that will support mass deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
IoT devices are used in sectors like energy, logistics, building management, and transport generally deployed on a massive scale. Often, the devices need to be in difficult environments for wireless (or wired) connections.
LPWA technology solves this connectivity challenge in three ways: it covers a large area; the radio signal penetrates deep inside buildings and underground, where infrastructure IoT devices are needed; and low-energy NB-IoT devices can last five or more years in the field.
LPWA devices can operate without a fixed power source, so they can remain in place without maintenance for long periods.
Working with partners
The Three UK LPWA pilot network has been set up at the Integrated Transport Electricity Gas Research Laboratory in Gateshead, in the north of England (InTEGReL): in a live environment, LPWAN technology helps energy companies improve service reliability, detect faults, make customer billing more accurate and lower carbon emissions.
The lab is a collaboration between Northern Gas Networks, Newcastle University, Northern Powergrid, Northumbrian Water and Siemens. The LPWA at InTEGReL will enable researchers to deploy wireless devices throughout the experimental energy network to identify problems and gather performance data.
Nigel Watson, CIO Northumbria Water, said LPWA will be an enabler for the delivery of the company's strategic objectives. "We recognise the power of innovative technologies to enhance what we're already doing. IoT is a key tool for us to detect and proactively respond to the impacts of climate change," he said. "We're excited to be involved in the LPWA IoT test bed and look forward to the learnings it will provide."
Matthew Little, Innovation, Information and Improvement Director, Northern Gas Networks, said: “LPWA[N] offers huge potential for the gas industry. Real-time data from our infrastructure flowing into advanced data analytics models will allow us to take fast, agile and even pre-emptive action to deliver outstanding customer value whilst maintaining the highest level of resilience, which will be more important than ever as we transition to a low carbon energy network.
"Our industry needs new technologies such as this to support our ambitions to decarbonise gas systems, through projects such as H21 to transition to hydrogen for heat and meet the UK Net Zero target by 2050.”
Drawing on experience
Three UK’s Wholesale division currently provides IoT connectivity to partners such as Arm, Arkessa, AT&T, Wireless Logic and Mobius.
Three UK will draw on extensive LPWAN experience CKH IOD has had with other CK Hutchison telecoms companies, including Three Austria, Sweden and Hong Kong. In Austria, for example, LPWAN technology is used by a range of companies in energy, transport, logistics and building management to track assets and monitor energy usage.
Three Sweden was the first mobile network in Sweden to launch narrow-band IoT services nationally and are actively partnering with Utility providers on smart-metering applications.