Telstra has launched a new technology in Australia that enables millions of devices to send small volumes of data at low power, allowing businesses to become connected to the Internet of Things (IoT).
The technology, called narrowband, can be used to connect any number of devices to the internet, from irrigation systems for commercial farming all the way to home pool filters.
Telstra already has Cat M1 technology spanning 3 million square kilometres, which it introduced in 2017. This is also an IoT technology but is more suited to personal health monitors, and monitoring vehicle performance, with much faster speeds.
Narrowband was expected to be popular in the transport and logistics, mining, manufacturing and agricultural industries due to the volume of the data that could be handled, Telstra chief operations officer Robyn Denholm said.
“We already offer our customers Australia’s largest and fastest mobile network and with our IoT network now we have added the ability to support millions of new devices like sensors, trackers and alarms operating at very low data rates that can sit inside machines and vehicles, reach deep inside buildings and have a battery life of years rather than hours and days,” she said.
Announcing the launch at the CES conference in Las Vegas on Thursday, Ms Denholm said the company was looking at Telstra-branded products that could be connected to the IoT, as there would be demand for “out of the box” options, but did not plan to limit the technology solely to its own branded devices.
The evolution of telcos into providers of devices and smart home-related technologies has been a significant topic of conversation over the past 12 months.
Telstra’s Smart Home platform has 2 million IoT devices connected including lights, cameras and motion sensors.
During initial trials, there was predominantly interest in how IoT networks could be used to ensure security and energy efficiency in homes, she said.
Since then, the technology had been found to be particularly useful for Australia’s ageing population and people with limited mobility. For example, a Melbourne man with multiple sclerosis had required a carer to come and turn lights on and off in his home. The technology has enabled him to do this task himself.
Research shows households have an average of 14 connected devices in their households already, and this is expected to more than double over the next five years.
Items as commonplace as pillows have been designed to be connected within the home.
The new technology is part of Telstra’s Networks for the Future program, a $3 billion capital investment into preparing for 5G and IoT.
In January, T-Mobile also announced it was launching the first narrowband technology plan in the US.