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O2 Begins to Rollout First UK LTE-M Network for IoT in 2020

Monday, February 10th, 2020 (4:19 pm) - Score 2,849

Mobile operator O2 (Telefonica) has announced that the first 50 sites are already live on their new 4G mobile based UK LTE-M (Long Term Evolution for Machines) standard, which is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN / LPWA) service that is designed to connect Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

The mobile operator claims that this is the first such LTE-M deployment in the United Kingdom, although Three UK appear to already be conducting a pilot of similar technology (here). At present LTE-M networks can deliver a peak symmetric speed of 1Mbps via just 1.4MHz of bandwidth, although in fairness most IoT kit (e.g. traffic lights, parking / environment sensors, smoke detectors, waste monitoring etc.) won’t require more than 0.1Mbps.

However we note that the latest Release 14 standard for LTE-M can potentially go up to 4Mbps download and 7Mbps upload via 5MHz of bandwidth. Granted this might not sound like much but it will offer a useful alternative to existing and significantly slower 2G based mobile connectivity.

At present O2 said that they have 50 UK cell sites already live with the technology and a national rollout planned to complete this year. In theory some battery-powered IoT sensors may be able to connect to this network and continue running for up to 10 years with no need to charge.

Paul O’ Sullivan, O2 Director of Wholesale & Commercial, said:

“IoT technology has the potential to transform the way the UK does business, so to become the first UK network operator to roll out an LTE-M network is a major milestone for us here at O2. We know that businesses looking into IoT solutions want answers now, not in five to ten years.

Introducing a nationwide LTE-M network in 2020 will help unlock low-power use cases we haven’t seen before: from asset tracking and public sector applications like sensors on signage and traffic lights, right through to parking sensors and soil monitoring. We’re looking forward to partnering with UK businesses to bring these use cases to life.”

Eventually 2G networks will have to be withdrawn and so we’d expect other operators, such as Vodafone and EE (BT), to follow down the same path. Otherwise it’s worth noting that O2 has already made significant developments in its IoT offering to date, not least by delivering one of the world’s largest IoT deals – providing Smart Meters across the UK (we believe that most of those connect via 2G).

Businesses interested in trialling or developing LTE-M applications via the new network are being asked to contact O2 Business on 0800 955 5590. The O2 team will also be present and welcoming enquiries at Smart IoT London, 11-12 March, Excel London.

Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. Avatar Michael V

    It’s great that one Operator has started the roll out of LTE-M. Connected street furniture is something that can be useful.

    I think now is the time Vodafone, O2, EE could start to refarm their 2G spectrum for LTE-M within the next few years.

  2. Avatar Bob

    Nobody cares. We want LTE+ (LTE-CA) with rural coverage.

  3. Avatar James Battle

    I excitedly called O2 on the number that you provided, because my company manufactures a device which uses 2G.

    I spoke to 5 people over three calls.

    Nobody knew what LTE-M was, nor did anybody help.

    The first call simply cut me off.

    The second transferred me to a different number where nobody knew anything and they
    transferred me back to the automated answer service.

    The third call resulted in the same as (2).

    Conclusion – this is not going to happen in the UK for a very long time. We’ll continue using 2G.

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