Narrowband IoT trial succeeds
NB-IoT is an RF medium intended to extend Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity to efficiently connect objects to the Internet that are in areas hard to reach by normal mobile signals, or that require a long battery life. "Pre-standard" refers to the fact that a format standard for the protocol has yet to be agreed; industry technology standards for NB-IoT are expected to be specified in early 2016 by the 3GPP global cellular standards organisation within its Release-13 specification.
The technology uses narrow-band signaling within already-licensed mobile bands. In a 3GPP meeting that took place in September, in Phoenix, Arizona, the decision was taken to standardise NB-IoT. That meeting proposed the technology as providing improved indoor coverage, support of massive number of low-throughput devices, low delay sensitivity, ultra-low device cost, low device power consumption, and optimised network architecture.
The technology can be deployed "in-band," using resource blocks within a normal LTE carrier, or in the unused resource blocks within a LTE carrier’s guard-band, or "standalone" for deployments in dedicated spectrum. NB-IoT is also particularly suitable, 3GPP believes, for the "re-farming" of GSM channels.
"It took us some twists and turns to get there, but we have now set a clear path in Release 13 to meet the needs of the 3GPP industry to further address the promising IoT market." Dino Flore, the Chairman of 3GPP RAN said, adding; "We entered the meeting with competing technology proposals for standardisation. After lengthy discussions we came up with a harmonised technology proposal with very broad industry support as can be seen from the number of companies supporting the approved Work Item".
The u-blox/Vodafone/Huawei group sent its first pre-standard NB-IoT message over a live commercial network in Spain; the participants term the technology "Low Power Wide Area (LPWA)" and assert that NB-IoT has "strong industry support" [as it implements] LPWA technology in licensed spectrum, able to be deployed over existing mobile networks.
Vodafone and Huawei integrated the technology onto the operator’s existing mobile network in Spain and then sent the first pre-standard NB-IoT message to a u-blox module in a water meter. NB-IoT promises to achieve up to 10 years’ battery life and deep indoor penetration, that could serve applications for enterprises in a range of different areas, from utility meters to sensor monitoring to asset-tracking.
The pre-NB IoT commercial technology trial used Huawei’s chipset and software and was the first of its kind to successfully implement narrowband communications in cellular bands. The deployment of NB-IoT in licensed cellular spectrum means it is secure and less susceptible to interference and can provide a better guarantee of service. Further trials and proof of concept deployments are planned by the companies.
Also see the 3GPP "work item" on NB-IoT (ZIP file), drafted by Qualcomm