BT launches smart city NB-IoT offer

BT has launched a multi-million-pound narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) network covering 97% of the UK population.

The move aims to tap into the rapidly expanding IoT market. According to recent Statista research, the number of connected IoT devices around the world is expected to nearly double by 2030, growing from 15.14 billion in 2024 to 29.42 billion in the next seven years.

Other studies have found that the range of traditional cellular technologies has expanded with the introduction of 5G, while previous generations, such as 2G and 3G, are being phased out in many countries.

Low-power wide-area (LPWA) technologies that were specifically developed for IoT applications have gained maturity and scale. NB-IoT is regarded as a good alternative for IoT deployments in remote and wide areas that don’t have high requirements for data speed or latency.

BT said low-power NB-IoT networks have the potential to transform industries such as utilities, construction and the public sector by securely and reliably connecting the devices to automate many processes that currently require manual oversight or direct involvement.

The NB-IoT infrastructure, underpinned by EE, is designed to enable low-data-demand assets, such as street lighting or underground water sensors, to be connected over a smart network. This, said BT, will not only deliver long battery life, but, for example, can also enhance efficiency and reduce costs by automatically detecting leaks in water infrastructure.

The operator also said the roll-out of the network will allow it to help fast-track “smart cities” of the future through use cases that include monitoring and optimising energy use, storage and distribution.

One key use case was highlighted in the agricultural industry, which may stand to benefit from IoT connectivity, using previously trialled BT sensors to monitor haystack temperature and prevent fire risks, as well as safekeeping of livestock through gate sensors.

“Growing numbers of businesses are beginning to realise the benefits of IoT applications, and our UK-wide NB-IoT network opens up a wide range of connectivity solutions for monitors, sensors and other smart devices,” said Chris Keone, managing director of Division X at BT.

“Whether it’s building the smart cities of the future or reducing carbon emissions, our network will provide customers with the reliability and efficiency they need.”

The network will add to BT’s existing IoT portfolio, which includes eSIMs and IoT national roaming SIMs for UK businesses, offering greater connectivity to customers on the move or in remote locations.

Already, BT has worked with companies such as Yorkshire Water in the deployment of almost 4,000 acoustic flow, pressure and water quality monitors using NB-IoT pilot technology, in what at the time of launch was said to be the UK’s largest smart water network pilot.

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