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Japan's 3 big mobile carriers to launch IoT services in 2018

Low-cost plans from Docomo, KDDI, SoftBank seen lifting nascent field

Consumers will soon begin reaping the benefits of the internet of things. China's Hisense demonstrates a system that allows users to control air conditioners in the home remotely at a trade fair in Barcelona.

TOKYO -- Japan's top three mobile carriers will roll out affordable telecommunications services next year to power the "internet of things" for corporations seeking to boost their competitive advantage.

The IoT wireless speeds provided by NTT Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank Group will be no match for smartphone data services, which are hundreds of times as fast. But the fees will be proportionally cheaper than the thousands of yen, or tens of dollars, a month that smartphone plans can run.

The equipment will also be energy-efficient -- two AA batteries can power a device for more than a decade. Chips and other smaller devices that act as sensors and transmitters will have their own miniature batteries or draw power from the factory equipment to which they are attached.

The three carriers will update current network software and begin providing nationwide IoT services in early 2018.

Kyocera Communication Systems has already launched its own IoT telecom business in parts of Japan this February. The Kyocera unit, employing technology from French startup Sigfox, starts rates at 100 yen a year.

The large cellphone companies have yet to establish their own fee schedules, but the levels are expected to compare favorably with Kyocera Communication's.

Using conventional telecom services for IoT applications is cost-prohibitive for the low volumes of data shared. Tailoring technology to such applications would better lend to profitability and lead to broader adoption by Japanese corporations.

Construction machinery maker Komatsu is introducing a system that optimizes operations at construction sites by gauging the condition of equipment. Many other enterprises plan to use IoT for logistics and managing factory production. Water and gas companies are automating meter readings via communications devices to cut costs and cope with personnel shortages.

Operators of hourly parking lots, vending machines and parcel delivery services are also considering tapping IoT for their businesses.


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