Amber to build ‘internet of things’ data network | Business

Managing Director of the Amber Group, Michael McNaughton, is non-committal about the planned buildout of Jamaica’s first 0G, or zero G, network, for which the company is in the process of seeking partners.

It’s already secured a service provider and carrier license to operate a 0G Internet of Things data network in Jamaica from the energy ministry.

Speaking from overseas as he negotiated with potential partners, McNaughton says the plan has been two years in the making, and that how quickly they progress with the buildout depends on the partnerships struck.

“It is all a process; we can’t put a definitive timeline on it. We have to sign off with the partner for them to then come and do the legwork,” he said. “Critically, we have the license in hand and we can proceed full speed ahead with all our plans,” McNaughton said in an interview with the Financial Gleaner on Tuesday.

INTERNET OF THINGS

Internet of things, or IoT, describes devices with sensors and software that can process and exchange data with other devices. It allows for the interconnection of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data, Amber said.

“Similar to the technology that allows you to open or close a door remotely, or even stay at the office and know how much food is in the refrigerator,” McNaughton added.

Amber’s plans call for the deployment of 50 to 70 transponders, sufficient to cover all of Jamaica, McNaughton said, but would not disclose the capital budget for the project.

The units will be wirelessly connected to each other and upload small packets of information via satellite.

“What we’ll be offering is a low-band network that offers some sort of connectivity without the need for say, a SIM card and such things. You’ll not be able to upload pictures and so on, because that requires more capacity,” McNaughton said.

In a release, Amber Group said through its project, Jamaica would join 75 countries around the world which have already adapted to 0G networks to support the growing innovation and demand for IoT devices globally. Its proposed 0G network, it added, will allow any IoT device to communicate small packets of data over long distances and at a fraction of the current cost using secure cloud infrastructure.

The 0G technology is already widely used in industries such as auto manufacturing, and supply chain and logistics, from warehouses to shipyards.

Amber says the technology is also used in healthcare, agriculture, retail, smart homes and cities, utilities and the energy sector.

McNaughton said that due to the nature of the technology, it obviates the need for spectrum, that is, the regulated band of radio frequencies that allows for the operation of radios, free-to-air television, cable and cellular phones.

“Because it’s low-band, there is no spectrum approval required. The approval we got from the Ministry of Energy came after the OUR did their own assessment and made a recommendation,” McNaughton said. The OUR, Office of Utilities Regulation, is the regulator for telecommunications services and providers. Spectrum is sold by the Spectrum Management Authority.

Jamaica’s telecoms market is dominated by Digicel Jamaica and Flow Jamaica.

McNaughton said, however, that Amber will not be rivaling the telecoms, but was more looking towards cooperation, since neither Digicel nor Flow operates in the low-band space.

Amber was granted its carrier license three months after its acquisition of a South African IoT company in January.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com

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