NarrowBand – Internet of Things (NB-IoT) Network

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Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is a new low power wide area (LPWA) technology specifically developed for the Internet of Things (IoT), for devices that require small amounts of data, over long periods and indoor coverage.

The 3GPP decided to standardise NB-IoT at its September 2015 meeting and standards were completed in June 2016. The standards were frozen in its Release 13 for LTE Advanced Pro (Link to LTE A-Pro guide), and only essential backwards-compatible changes will now be possible. NB-IoT will continue to evolve into future Releases with new features, such as support for multicast and positioning.

NarrowBand – Internet of Things (NB-IoT)NarrowBand-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) is a standards-based low power wide area (LPWA) technology developed to enable a wide range of new IoT devices and services. NB-IoT significantly improves the power consumption of user devices, system capacity and spectrum efficiency, especially in deep coverage. Battery life of more than 10 years can be supported for a wide range of use cases.New physical layer signals and channels are designed to meet the demanding requirement of extended coverage – rural and deep indoors – and ultra-low device complexity. Initial cost of the NB-IoT modules is expected to be comparable to GSM/GPRS. The underlying technology is however much simpler than today’s GSM/GPRS and its cost is expected to decrease rapidly as demand increases.Supported by all major mobile equipment, chipset and module manufacturers, NB-IoT can co-exist with 2G, 3G, and 4G mobile networks. It also benefits from all the security and privacy features of mobile networks, such as support for user identity confidentiality, entity authentication, confidentiality, data integrity, and mobile equipment identification. The first NB-IoT commercial launches have been completed and global roll out is expected for 2017/18.

Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) radio technology standard developed by 3GPP to enable a wide range of cellular devices and services. The specification was frozen in 3GPP Release 13 (LTE Advanced Pro), in June 2016. Other 3GPP IoT[disambiguation needed] technologies include eMTC (enhanced Machine-Type Communication) and EC-GSM-IoT.

NB-IoT focuses specifically on indoor coverage, low cost, long battery life, and high connection density. NB-IoT uses a subset of the LTE standard, but limits the bandwidth to a single narrow-band of 200kHz. It uses OFDM modulation for downlink communication and SC-FDMA for uplink communications.


What is the GSMA NB-IoT Forum?
The GSMA NB-IoT Forum aims to provide all industry and wider ecosystem stakeholders with market representation to accelerate the wide-spread adoption of 3GPP-based NB-IoT technology. NB-IoT is addressing the low power wide area IoT market opportunity using licensed spectrum with the intent to scale global deployment in 2018/19. The Forum Chair is Luke Ibbetson, Vodafone Group and Vice- Chair is Madame Huang Yuhong, China Mobile.


What are the objectives of the Forum?
Facilitate commercial launches of NB-IoT solutions globally
Lead industry partners and the ecosystem to build a strong end-to-end industry chain for future growth and development of NB-IoT
Drive and proliferate NB-IoT applications in vertical markets for new business opportunities
Promote collaboration between all NB-IoT industry partners to ensure interoperability of solutions


What is LPWA?
Low power wide area (LPWA) technologies fill the gap between mobile (3G, LTE) and short-range wireless (eg Bluetooth, WiFi and ZigBee) networks. They are designed for machine communications, to provide connectivity for devices and applications that require low mobility and low levels of data transfer, and will therefore be critical in the development of the IoT.

As the name suggests, they have low power draw and provide wide area coverage. They must also be low cost in order to enable the billions of devices that will be connected in the IoT.


Why NB-IoT?
The term LPWA was coined in 2013. In November 2015 the 3GPP formed a working group to merge Huawei’s Cellular IoT (NB-CIoT) technology (developed in partnership with Cambridge-based Neul, which Huawei acquired for a reported $25 million in September 2014, and with Vodafone) and the NB-LTE technology put forward by Nokia, Ericsson and Intel. NB-IoT is the result.

The backing of the world’s three largest telecoms infrastructure manufacturers, and the fact that it can it deployed over existing mobile networks and operates in licensed spectrum, ensured strong industry support, and the first NB-IoT standard was finalised in June 2016.

The 3GPP also set standards for two other LPWA technologies for different use cases. NB-IoT specifically targets low throughput IoT applications. It is perceived to have cost and coverage advantages over LTE-M (also known as LTE-MTC), which supports a wide range of IoT applications, including those which are content rich. EC-GSM-IoT (extended coverage GSM-IoT) optimises existing GSM networks for IoT devices through new software deployed over the GSM network.


How will it do it?
The main drivers behind the development of NB-IoT (and other LPWA technologies) were to reduce cost (in terms of device as well as deployment) and power consumption, at the same time as increasing coverage and the number of devices that can be connected, compared with cellular and other wireless networks.

M2M devices are typically battery powered and not connected to mains power, so NB-IoT promises to achieve up to 10 years’ battery life on a single charge. It incorporates technologies that enable devices to power down when data is not being transmitted, as well as enhanced discontinuous reception (eDRX) to conserve battery life.

NB-IoT is optimised for low throughput, whether over long or short distances, and has optimised data transfer to support small, intermittent blocks of data. Uplink and downlink rates of around 200kbps are supported.

There must be ubiquitous coverage in order for IoT applications to work, with coverage over long distances and deep penetration. NB-IoT must therefore provide coverage of remote and rural areas, hard to reach places such as underground locations, and deep inside buildings. Power spectrum density (PSD) boosting and repetition in NB-IoT can deliver coverage gains of 20dB when compared with GSM networks, enabling about ten times better area coverage.

NB-IoT needs just 200kH of bandwidth (hence the name ‘narrowband’) which means it can run adjacent to existing cellular networks.

The unit cost of NB-IoT devices is expected to be low and to fall as demand picks up, with the 3GPP believing this can get to below $5 per module

NB IoT Applications:
One of the most suitable uses for NB-IoT is Smart Metering: Gas and water meters, unlike smart electricity meters, are not connected to the electricity supply and are also often located in cellars where conventional mobile network connections are usually either weak or non-existent. Battery-powered NB-IoT modules need no power connection, deliver deep indoor penetration, and thereby establish a reliable connection even in areas where mobile reception is poor. The provider is able to read the meter remotely and the end customer does not have to stay at home in order to wait for the meter reader to come by.

In smart cities, NB-IoT technology is conceivable for use in street lighting, for example. Lamp posts fitted with appropriate modules can be switched on and off or dimmed remotely and trigger an alarm if they malfunction. If a city connects its parking spaces by NB-IoT, better use is made of free capacities. Motorists are directed by a smart parking guidance system of this kind to the nearest free parking space by the shortest route. In waste disposal, garbage cans fitted with NB-IoT modules alert a control center when they are full. As a consequence, waste disposal companies can optimize vehicle routes and reduce costs.

In transportation and logistics very little information is often needed in very small data packets, and transmission does not even have to be in real time. So NB-IoT is a suitable low-cost solution. In container tracking, for instance, hourly notification of the container’s location is all that is required. In the case of refillable tanks or bottles, providers of industrial liquids or gases monitor levels, pressure and temperature as required. Railroad operators locate freight cars by NB-IoT.

NB-IoT is suitable for locating pets or valuables. In order to not lose sight of a pet or an expensive bike, an NB-IoT module can be a low-cost alternative to a GSM tracker.

MeenaG Staff

Internet of Things Enthusiast

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