The race to roll out a nationwide network for Internet of Things (IoT) devices may have come to a photo finish. When Dutch telecommunications company KPL announced last week that the Netherlands was the first country to switch on a nationwide IoT network, it seemed to beat South Korea to the punch. But SK Telecom reported on Monday that it has also completed its own network across South Korea, announcing prices for its IoT services and its future plans for the network.
SK Telecom completed construction of the nationwide LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) servicing 99 percent of South Korea by the end of June, which puts the rollout six months ahead of schedule. It joins the existing LTE-M infrastructure that was completed in March. Together, the two technologies form the IoT network, which will allow public, private and commercial smart devices to capture and process data for various purposes.
Over the next few months, the company plans to focus on several applications for the service, including Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), a two-way communication system between a utility company and smart meters in customers' homes that means usage data can be gathered remotely, and services switched on or off without sending staff to the premises.
The service can host devices that track the location of people, vehicles, objects and assets, as needed. For instance, SK is working with local governments on Safe Watch, a smartwatch for children and the elderly that lets parents or carers keep track of the wearer, which launches later this month.
Monitoring is also a key focus, which will allow manufacturing and commercial facilities to manage the safety and efficiency of their equipment and environment. Temperature, humidity, CO2 concentration and hazardous materials in the soil and air can all be monitored to maintain desired levels.
In order to get this countrywide connectivity up and running, SK Telecom announced price plans for businesses and individuals using devices on the network. The company is offering six tiers of Band IoT plans, varying in price and data allowance depending on the needs of the device and user. Plans range from 100 KB for KRW350 (US$0.30) per month on the Band IoT 35 plan, up to 100 MB for KRW2,000 (USD$1.70) on the Band IoT 200. Discounts are offered for longer-term and multi-line contracts.
A Partner Hub Program was also announced, with the goal of encouraging more businesses and startups to develop devices and services for the network. To that end, SK Telecom is providing 100,000 LoRa modules for free to developers, and running a program called IoT Open Testbed to offer consulting, training and marketing for partners.
"SK Telecom is proud to announce the nationwide deployment of LoRaWAN as it marks the first important step towards realizing connectivity between infinite number of things, going beyond the traditional role of telecommunications centered on connectivity between people," says Lee Hyung-hee, President of Mobile Network Business at SK Telecom. "Going forward, SK Telecom will develop and offer a wide variety of IoT services designed to offer new value for customers, while working closely with partners including SMEs and startups to vitalize the IoT ecosystem."
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