NB-IoT Asset Tracking in South Africa – Vodacom Network Coverage and Performance Testing
Greater network coverage, longer battery life, and superior device functionality is moving asset tracking towards a ‘mainstream’ enterprise requirement, with Cellular IoT set to dominate the asset tracking market.
According to Tech Central, the current indicative dates by mobile networks of the start of 2G and 3G sunsets are:
Vodacom: 3G sunset starts in 2023, 2G sunset starts in 2025
MTN: 2G and 3G sunset both start in 2025
Telkom: Has already shut down most 2G services as it did not have a large base
What are the benefits of NB-IoT in asset tracking?
Narrowband-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) is a low power wide area (LPWA) cellular network that uses similar narrowband radio technology as Sigfox and LoRaWAN® and is designed to connect low power IoT applications and devices.
Cellular LPWA networks are particularly well suited for battery-powered asset tracking applications, like trailer, bin, container, livestock and equipment tracking, as they support incredibly low power consumption, improved range, and better performance as compared with 2G, 3G, and even LoRaWAN and Sigfox networks, depending on the application.
- Battery Life – Optimised for the infrequent transmission of small amounts of data, NB-IoT enables extremely long battery life – over 30x battery life on NB-IoT versus 2G
- Range – Excellent range, including extended-range indoors
- Performance – Cellular-grade wireless technology performance can handle more data than other LPWANs
- OTA Device Management – NB-IoT supports two-way communication with devices which enables over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates and remote debugging – this is critical in battery-powered asset tracking, where we strive to minimise the amount of interaction with a device once deployed as much as possible!
- Cost and Complexity – NB-IoT devices are generally less complex and cost less to produce, deploy, and manage, which means it’s now more affordable for businesses to track all their assets, not just vehicles
- Future-Proof – NB-IoT networks are now formally recognized as 5G technologies, which means the technology will be supported long into the future
With concerns over smaller bandwidth and lengthy cell tower transition delays that introduce latency in real-time asset tracking applications, we usually see NB-IoT utilized in primarily static tracking applications (asset doesn’t move a lot, or at all) and sensor monitoring.
Over the last few years, however, we have seen substantial improvements in NB-IoT maturity and performance in mobile, or real-time tracking applications, particularly with 3GPP Release 14!
Status of Vodacom’s NB-IoT Rollout in South Africa
As of August 2021, Vodacom had launched NB-IoT services to 3,500 sites primarily across Guateng, Cape Town (CBD), and Durban (coast) with near-complete coverage of major hubs across the country and continuous rollout to outlying areas.
NB-IoT coverage map of South Africa as of August 2021
As of April 2023, we can see Vodacom’s NB-IoT coverage has expanded substantially! Further deployments continue, with the aim of having most of the current Vodacom LTE sites enabled for NB-IoT by 2024.
To check coverage in your region, view Vodacom’s Coverage Map here.
Digital Matter’s own NB-IoT network testing has also shown consistent and growing coverage across South Africa!
Strong and consistent NB-IoT coverage on a trip to Flag Boshielo Dam, Limpopo using our Indoor/Outdoor battery-powered asset tracker the Yabby Edge Cellular
Strong and consistent NB-IoT coverage in and around Johannesburg using our Indoor/Outdoor battery-powered asset tracker the Yabby Edge Cellular
Strong and consistent NB-IoT coverage in and around Duncanville (Vereeniging) – Around the Gauteng and Free State Border using our battery-powered Oyster3 GPS
Strong and consistent NB-IoT coverage in and around Lenasia, Westonaria, and Meyerton using our battery-powered Oyster3 GPS
Get Started with NB-IoT Asset Tracking in South Africa
As one of the first IoT hardware manufacturers to go to market with LTE-M/NB-IoT asset tracking devices, we have extensive experience designing and deploying devices on global cellular IoT networks.