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Huawei deploying first NB-IoT service in Africa

Steve Rogerson
November 24, 2016
 
South Africa mobile telco MTN and Huawei have jointly launched the first NB-IoT service in Africa.
 
This will be used initially for smart water metering, but the plan is to explore other markets.
 
The smart water metering service enables the automated collection of utility meter data, while manual meter reading leads to high labour costs and missing or inaccurate data. Through sensors installed in water meters, customers can identify water pipeline leakage earlier.
 
Household water meters will automatically report data on a regular basis, reducing fault probabilities and the operating expense. Powered by the NB-IoT technology from Chinese company Huawei, the sensor array is designed to serve as a diagnostic spine that underpins network management. The data gathered can be used to control waste water flows from each property, identify faults across the network and improve health and safety outcomes.
 
"NB-IoT is viewed by the industry as the answer for enterprise applications in a range of different areas, from utility meters to sensor monitoring to asset-tracking,” said Babak Fouladi, group chief technology officer of MTN. “In line with our strategy to explore new enterprise markets, MTN is glad to lead the application of this new technology in Africa. Now we’ve succeeded in the commercial trial of smart water metering, the first NB-IoT service in Africa, and looking forward, wildlife tracking, smart farm, smart parking and so on, lots of services will be available to bring us a better connected Africa.”
 
NB-IoT makes it more efficient to connect objects requiring a long battery life and that are located in hard to reach areas to the internet by mobile connectivity. This low-power wide area technology has motivated many analyst firms to create forecasts showing the expected numbers of connections as well as the revenue potential. Generally, the global IoT market is expected to be worth trillions of dollars by 2020, and there will be a very promising market with 450 million cellular IoT connections needed in Africa.
 
“The number of cellular IoT connections in Africa will grow seven-fold over the next three to four years, and NB-IoT will be a key driver for this trend,” said Jacky Chen, managing director of Huawei’s MTN key account group. “Together with our partners, Huawei is applying groundbreaking NB-IoT innovation to solve core challenges around IoT applications. We will build a robust, open ecosystem to drive NB-IoT technology innovation and commercialisation.”
 
The smart water metering service will be commercially deployed in 2017. MTN and Huawei showcased a live demonstration of this and other IoT services at last week’s AfricaCom in Cape Town.