NeulNET and BT ready to exploit white space radio for IoT

Ian Scales
By Ian Scales

Jan 15, 2014

The UK has the distinction of being one of the only countries (or is it the ONLY country?) in Europe to have an incumbent wireline operator without a mobile network arm. After its self-indulgent spending spree in the late 1990s, BT like many other Euro telcos, found itself mired in debt with nowhere to go. It decided to sell off its mobile bit, then better known as BT Cellnet, in the early 2000s to Telefonica.

A controversial move, but it got the ratings agencies off BT’s back and it did mean the operator was free to look out for the next wireless wave - it didn’t have an incumbent mobile arm to protect.

First port was WiFi of course. BT was early into the WiFi sharing game where its broadband customers (with WiFi) agreed to give up a tiny fraction of their capacity to share with other BT broadband users and their gadgets - specifically, by the late 2000s, WiFi enabled smartphones and tablets.

This business is still growing and looking potentially dangerous to the incumbent mobile operators (BT’s old rivals) as more and more is heard of ‘WiFi first’ approaches to mobile broadband. This is where the smart device relies on wifi for nearly all its capacity needs, only turning to cellular when out of range. As the density of WiFi continues to thicken, the need for cellular - theoretically - becomes less and less, so this slow-burner business case starts to become more and more viable. The approach is still unproven though.

But it might just be that there are even better wireless fish to fry. Neul has announced its NeulNET, based on the Weightless open standard and designed specifically for the Internet of Things. (see - TV white spaces targetted for M2M-optimnised radion tech).

“NeulNET comprises every element which an operator needs to provide a scalable, secure, resilient and economical service offering, enabling them to capitalize on the huge 'Internet of Things' opportunity,” trumpets Neul.

Obviously BT has no cellular M2M business to cannibalise as the IoT market begins to take off so it might be in exactly the right place, business model-wise, to pick up that second wave. And significantly , BT is conducting an "extensive technical trial" of the Neul network,

Neul claims NeulNET hits all the important network marks and measures to win in the IoiT space: coverage, battery life, module cost and simplicity of operation is a generation ahead of existing standards such as GPRS, 3G, CDMA and LTE WAN solutions, it says.

“This solution provides two-way, managed communication with QoS for M2M devices and the Internet of Things. The system is designed to operate in licensed and unlicensed spectrum and works across a variety of frequencies from global unlicensed metering bands (169 MHz or lower) up to and including sub-GHz cellular bands. NeulNET’s unique ability to use different spectrum allows service providers to use unlicensed spectrum or their own licensed spectrum as they choose,” says the press release.

With the Weightless technology potentially in harness for white space use and the Internet of things market apparently about to take off over the next five years or so, BT may have reintercepted its lost radio business.

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