Gone are the days when voice and data services are the main keys to profitability of operators. Instead, IoT (Internet of Things) becomes a new focus of China’s operators, reflecting on China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom are accelerating the construction of IoT networks.
China Telecom Races Ahead To NB-IoT and eMTC Construction
China Telecom announced the completion and commercialization of 310,000 NB-IoT base stations nationwide in May 2017. The operators also unveiled the plan of getting commercial eMTC products by 2018.
A telecom expert from China said that eMTC, compared to NB-IoT, has a lot of advantages. From the coverage perspective, as a result of the limited NB-IoT networks in the 800 MHz frequency band, there may be dead zones inside some large buildings. On the contrary, since LTE-advanced network using 1.8 GHz spectrum is everywhere and once it is enabled for eMTC functionality, eMTC would have better network coverage than NB-IoT in indoor environments. Consequently, opening the eMTC function can make up for NB-IoT’s deficiency in coverage and optimize the quality of China Telecom’s IoT network service.
Since China Telecom’s NB-IoT network currently has only opened one carrier with 200kHz of bandwidth, such capacity can only support low-frequency IoT businesses, such as smart meters and surveillance alarm systems. For other businesses in need of large capacity, like intelligent bicycles, fleet management and automatic orientation tracking, taking advantage of eMTC technology is necessary.
Jie Yang, the CEO of China Telecom, confirmed the test/verification of eMTC (CAT-M) in the second half of 2017, and then in 2018, they will make the commercialization of the technology. At that time, China Telecom will be able to build full 4G-based IoT network.
China Unicom Attempts To Catch Up
China Unicom is also continually making a splash in the construction of IoT. The Research Institute Lab of China Unicom has led several depot tests of eMTC for major equipment manufacturers during the first quarter of this year. Then in the third quarter, the operator completed eMTC of outdoor pilot testing in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Changsha City, verifying the coverage capacity and networking performance. It plans to launch the trial commercial eMTC products in early 2018 in major big cities while the full commercialization throughout China must wait until the middle of 2018.
China Unicom joined forces with Ericsson and Qualcomm first to demonstrate Cat-M1 VolTE use cases at Mobile World Congress Shanghai 2017 (MWCS2017). Dr. Hu Yun, the director of technology at the Research Institute Lab of China Unicom, said that NB-IoT came with quite low delay and speed, making it suitable for low-frequency, hour-based information transmission that is less sensitive to delay supporting.
China Mobile Is Not Clear About The Commercial eMTC Timeline
In terms of the eMTC commercializing progress in China Mobile, the operator announced to carry out scale experiment with NB-IoT and eMTC at MWCS2017.
Later in June, China Mobile unveiled their plans to promote the coordinated development of NB-IoT and eMTC, for the purpose of complement of technologies and common progress of industries. While China Mobile’s NB-IoT construction is in full swing, the detailed information of its eMTC construction still remains a secret. Anyway, eMTC is very possible to be the priority of China Mobile if it wants to take a share in the future IoT market.