Ubiquitous Low-Power Networks Up the IoT Ante

Carl Weinschenk

The ramp-up to the Internet of Things (IoT) is reaching a tipping point as low-power networks are being widely deployed around the globe.

Spark, a carrier in New Zealand, said last week that it is building a nationwide low-power IoT network in partnership with Actility and Kordia. The ZDNet report says that a “significant” portion of the network will be operational next June. The carriers’ plan encompasses LoRa, LTE Cat M1 and narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) technologies. These approaches will create a nearly ubiquitous mesh across the respective carriers’ service footprint.

Late last month, Verizon said that it, Qualcomm and Ericsson completed a voice over LTE (VoLTE) call overs the carrier’s nationwide LTE Cat M1 network. Verizon won’t use it for its primary LTE voice services. Rather, it opens the possibility that IoT-based services will become more valuable by supporting ancillary and complementary voice functions. For instance, a first responder using IoT equipment would be able to more easily communicate in emergency situations.

AT&T doesn’t want to be left behind. Last week, it and Cisco announced AT&T Control Center Advanced. This, according to Business Insider, is a family of IoT services – security, communications protocols and enhanced analytics – that will be managed through Narrowband IoT and LTE Cat M1 networks. The platform is based on technology from Cisco’s March, 2016 acquisition of Jasper.


These announcements suggest that the adoption of the IoT is hitting full stride. If power and bandwidth barriers truly are being breached, it will only be a matter of time – and not much at that – until the IoT is fully distributed.

That’s good on many levels. However, it should also cause the ecosystem to redouble security efforts. The IoT has always raised concerns. These announcements suggest that the point of no return has been reached. Last month, Network World’s Jon Gold wrote about a Pew Research Center survey of technologists that concluded that the IoT is “inescapable, pervasive, and riddled with insecurity.” The experts also called the IoT “interesting” – as in dangerous and uncertain.

The experts, as summarized by Gold, seem extremely concerned: Insecurities are already bubbling to the surface in many instances. This is happening as the IoT is burrowing ever more deeply into mission-critical infrastructure. In other words, we may be setting ourselves up for an extremely rude awakening.

The piece has quotes from quite a few of these futurists. The theme is that there is great danger unless people pay attention – and to date, they aren’t. The introduction of IoT functionality on ubiquitous low-power networks suggests that whatever challenges existed before soon will be multiplied.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

 


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