SINGAPORE (Aug 7): M1 today beat its peers to the punch by becoming the first in Southeast Asia to launch its nationwide Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network.

This comes amid group’s battle against declining mobile revenue in recent years.

"Our intention is to diversify beyond connectivity," says M1's chief financial officer, Lee Kok Chew. "Our financial profile will change as a result as we move from the high-margin, capital-intensive [mobile segment] into the digital business."

M1’s EBITDA margin fell to 36% in its latest half-year results, after having hovered at around 40% historically.

Lee expects the trend to continue as the group scales its enterprise business, which includes its NB-IoT solutions.

The NB-IoT network is a form of low-powered network with wide area coverage that connect millions of devices, sensors and services. Data can be monitored remotely and sent back through the cloud. This would enable businesses to deploy IoT devices without incurring high infrastructure investment, says M1.

These solutions include smart energy management for buildings, environmental monitoring as well as asset and fleet management. Keppel Electric is piloting the NB-IoT Energy Management Meter, which it claims will provide customers with more cost-savings than traditional metering systems.

One of M1's NB-IOT customers is fleet management firm ComCentric. The company is using NB-IoT to track its vehicle fleet in real-time – even in underground areas. "It also gives us 40% better battery life," says Anthony Gloridas, CTO of ComCentric.

Some of its customers are also looking to expand their business with the help of M1's NB-IoT network.

Anacle Systems, for example, is working with developers such as CapitaLand, Ascendas and Mapletree to provide smart metering to over 200 commercial buildings in Singapore, Malaysia and China. Come next year, the company is planning to leverage on M1's network to deploy the smart metering solutions to residential buildings.

Meanwhile, Nokia is planning to enter the digital healthcare space, and may partner M1 to roll out new IOT-based solutions.

But the telco is expected to face greater competition.

Singapore Telecommunications today announced that it will be rolling out its nationwide cellular IoT network by end-September.

See: Singtel to roll out Internet-of-Things network nationwide next month

During its latest results briefing, StarHub said it plans to expand its IoT solutions offerings.

Shares of M1 closed half a cent lower at $1.78 on Monday.