Digital Catapult launches a free-to-use network for IoT testing in London

Ian Scales
By Ian Scales

Sep 23, 2016

via Flickr © $hrink (CC BY-SA 2.0)

via Flickr © $hrink (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • London network to host LPWAN technologies as a testbed
  • Programme designed to empower IoT start-ups and users

Digital Catapult, a government-backed scheme to foster digital business in the UK, this week launched a free-to-use LoRa network in London. ‘Digital Catapult Things Connected’ comprises 50 LoRaWAN base stations covering London and is designed to provide a testbed for low-power wide area technologies. The LoRaWAN’s deployment will be followed by other LPWA technologies as these are developed and made ready for commercial deployment.

The idea is to have a free-to-use, up and running urban network that a wide range of players can use as a resource to test the various radio technologies and devices as they come onto the IoT scene. It’s hoped the programme will empower digital startups and SMEs to drive IoT innovation.

Digital Catapult’s Things Connected seems like the right innovation at the right moment in the right place as the wide area network enablement for IoT is now really starting to emerge. The standards for 3GPP’s NB-IoT - essentially a cellular operator version of  LPWA network technology like LoRa, but operating in slivers of licensed sub-Gig spectrum - have recently been finalised and the first deployments will probably arrive sometime next year.

London, of course, is generally recognised as the leading  European digital hotspot with hundreds of start-ups, many of them IoT pioneers, in and around Tech City in central London.

The Things Connected network should be able to support early arrival NB-IoT kit as well as all the public spectrum-using technologies in addition to LoRa, such as Sigfox, enabling IoT system and device developers to test, refine and compare device performance on different systems.

Whether the cellular players will actually participate looks less certain. Digital Catapult lists BT, Future Cities Catapult, Everynet, Beecham Research, AllThingsTalk, BRE, Imperial College London, King’s College London, UCL  and Queen Mary University of London as current supporters of the initiative. No mobile network operators…  yet.

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