BENGALURU — India's leading telecom operator Vodafone Idea said when integration of networks is completed, it will help boost the company's internet of things (IoT) business. Leveraging Idea's strong rural presence, the IoT business will help the company focus on new areas like agriculture, a top executive said Wednesday.

“The company is focusing on NB-IoT (narrowband IoT) technology as it has the potential to drive mass deployment, helping to bring down cost of devices that is crucial for India,” Nick Gliddon, Vodafone Idea’s chief enterprise business officer, said in a report in The Economic Times.

Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) radio technology standard developed by 3GPP to enable a wide range of cellular devices and services.

The company, formed after the recent merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, has conducted trials in two cities – one in North India (Jaipur) and the other in South (Kochi) and is preparing to launch its NB- IoT services.

Bharti Airtel also plans to launch its own NB-IoT network while Reliance Jio Infocomm launched a similar one earlier this year in a few metro cities including Mumbai. Jio is right now engaged with start-ups and its technology partner Samsung to identify new use-cases.

India’s IoT market size is expected to expand about seven-fold to $9 billion by 2020, from $1.3 billion in 2016, according to consultancy firm Deloitte.

The senior executive said India needs to develop an entire ecosystem around IoT including devices, network, platforms and applications. “The focus should be on how do we produce most of those devices and leverage software skills locally, besides operating at common standards and capabilities,” he said.

The chief business officer felt India has too many IoT devices operating at different standards with the result that the market has become fragmented.

According to the report, Giddon said NB-IoT is a 3GPP standard and expected to be the new growth engine within enterprise IoT.

He said the company is already strong in the automotive segment and has a healthcare solution for entrepreneurs focused on rural areas. “We will also focus on logistics and education, and have a major engagement with start-ups to drive innovation... wearables could be another area,” said Gliddon.

The telco is also identifying new enterprise clusters to offer its enterprise and IoT services.

Meanwhile, Vodafone Idea has brought forward the proposed completion date for integrating Vodafone India and Idea Cellular’s operations from fiscal year 2023 to fiscal year 2021.

— Sufia Tippu is a freelance tech journalist based in India contributing to EE Times India