Experts predict there will be more than 26 billion devices connecting to the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020. As exciting as that sounds, the volume of connected devices will necessitate wireless networks that can support them all. Some predict that Narrowband IoT will be the best Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) option.
Narrowband IoT (also known as NB-IoT or LTE-M2) is a proposed LPWAN technology that won’t operate in the LTE construct. Instead, it’s being designed to exist in one of three ways:
In unused 200-kHz bands that have previously been used for GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications)
On LTE base stations allocating a resource block to NB-IoT operations or in their guard bands.
Telecommunication giants such as Huawei, Ericsson, Qualcomm, and Vodafone are actively involved in putting this standard together. In fact, Vodafone is set to roll out the first live, commercial NB-IoT launch markets in early 2017 in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain.
Huawei, Ericsson, and Qualcomm are interested in NB-IoT because it has a number of benefits.
Foreseeing NB-IoT Applications
NB-IoT applications can cross many service categories. These include:
Smart metering (electricity, gas and water)
Facility management services
Intruder and fire alarms for homes & commercial properties
Connected personal appliances measuring health parameters
Tracking of persons, animals or objects
Smart city infrastructures such as street lamps or dustbins
Connected industrial appliances such as welding machines or air compressors.
1. Power Efficiency
Efficiently powering IoT devices is critical. Think about it: who wants to be out there changing the batteries on 20 billion devices every six months? While nearly all IoT technologies are developed to save power when they aren’t operating, they do draw energy when the modem is running and handling signal processing.
2. Cost Savings
Technologies with a simpler waveform — like NB-IoT — will consume less power. A 200 kHz NB-IoT frontend and digitizer offers reduced complexity of analog-to-digital (A/D) and digital-to-analog (D/A) conversion, buffering, and channel estimation. Power savings = cost savings. Plus, NB-IoT chips will be simpler to create and thus come cheaper.
Rolling out NB-IoT on a licensed spectrum means improved reliability for users as well as the guaranteed resource allocation needed for managed Quality of Service (QoS).
4. Wider Deployment
Compared to LTE-M1, NB-IoT has lower bitrates and better link budgets. Additionally, per Huawei’s Emmanuel Coehlo Alves in an IoT Hub article, NB-IoT doesn’t need gateways to provide connectivity.