By Nick Wood, Total Telecom in Barcelona

French incumbent still not sure about NB-IoT; plans to deploy LTGE-M across its entire European footprint.

Orange this week revealed plans to deploy LTE-M in Spain and Belgium this year, with a view to eventually rolling out the cellular IoT technology across its entire European footprint.

The French incumbent also plans to launch in April an Open IoT Lab at its innovation centre in Chatillon, France, in order to drive the development of devices and services that will run on the new network.

Orange plans to launch LTE-M pilots this year in the areas of smart electric metering, and a wearable health tracker that monitors movement, temperature and other health-related information.

By rolling out LTE-M across its footprint, Orange is on course to be number one in the world for 4G-based IoT network coverage, claimed Arnaud Vamparys, senior vice president of radio networks at Orange.

Speaking to Total Telecom at mobile world congress, he said that Orange opted in favour of LTE-M instead of NB-IoT – another low power, wide area (LPWA) networking technology – because the latter "is a bit more complex to put on the network.

"We’re still evaluating it," he said.

Orange already has an IoT network up and running in its home market, based on LoRa technology, which unlike LTE-M uses unlicensed spectrum. The network is currently available in 2,000 towns in France, and 60 projects are already up and running. This year, Orange plans to deploy LoRa networks worldwide.

Explaining the rationale behind rolling out LoRa and LTE-M, Vamparys said that the LoRa network is designed to cater to sensors that send a small amount of data, either sporadically or at predetermined times, while the LTE-M network is for devices that require slightly higher bandwidth and longer data sessions.

"The LoRa network is more of a listening network…LTE-M is more for actuators," he said.

"There is not a fight between different IoT standards," he continued. "It’s about customer demand and bringing the capability to the customer."