Along with LoRa and Sigfox wireless technologies, NB-IoT has been a focus of recent global attention considering the possibility of billions of future IoT connections. Each of these technologies has a potential to be dominant for specific deployment scenarios and IoT verticals. In this post we will look into NB-IoT's advantages and recent deployments.
NB-IoT (also called Cat-M2) is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) radio technology standard developed to enable a wide range of devices and services to be connected using cellular telecommunications bands. NB-IoT is a narrowband radio technology designed for the Internet of Things (IoT) and is one of a range of Mobile IoT (MIoT) technologies standardized by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). NB-IoT focuses specifically on indoor coverage, low cost, long battery life, and enabling a large number of connected devices.
NB-IoT is designed to optimize power consumption of user devices, system capacity and spectrum efficiency.
NB-IoT Cost Effectiveness
On the one hand, NB-IoT can mean higher up-front deployments costs. It doesn’t operate in LTE band and there is an issue of Ericsson/Huawei rival NB-IoT versions, which makes some carriers opt for LTE-M networks instead, while others deploy both NB-IoT and LTE-M. In addition, platform vendors that want to enable out-of-the-box device connectivity for IoT offerings may want to make their products compatible with both versions.
On the other hand, NB-IoT can be potentially less expensive as it doesn't require a gateway for management of IoT devices. IoT device data is sent directly to the main server. Other networks typically require gateways to be the middleman, connecting the sensors and devices to the main server. This straightforward way of monitoring and managing IoT sensors make NB-IoT attractive for carriers and IoT service providers.
NB IoT features the same security and privacy features of LTE mobile networks, including support for user identity confidentiality, entity authentication, data integrity, and mobile device identification.
A total of 48 commercial (NB-IoT) and LTE-Mobile (LTE-M) deployments had been launched worldwide as of the end of April 2018, according to the GSMA.
NB-IoT deployments are currently a lot more common than LTE-M, although some operators, including Singtel and Australia’s Telstra, have deployed both technologies.
Among carriers and telcos who have announced NB-IoT deployments are:
- KT, the South Korean telco, has launched a child monitoring service that uses its national NB-IoT network.
- SmarTone, the Hong Kong telco, together with Kai Shing Management have jointly introduced an NB-IoT enabled smart property management service.
- American-based Dish Networks has announced allocation of $1B for the construction of an NB-IoT network.
- Proximus, Belgium’s largest mobile operator, launched an NB-IoT network to support digital meter connectivity, adding to its existing LoRaWan platform. The company said NB-IoT would be used to support the connection of 1.3 million digital meters, and will be rolled out by gas and electricity power companies Eandis and Infrax by the end of 2022.
- Beeline Kazakhstan completed a successful deployment of NB-IoT for IoT management. The testing of NB-IoT technology was done by remote monitoring and processing of date received from electrical, gas and water meters, as well as other devices of the Smart Home.
- Telia Sweden is the first operator in Sweden to bring Narrowband NB-IoT equipment to its entire network, making it possible to connect a huge number of sensors directly to the mobile grid easily. It said coverage is for more than 99.9 percent of the Swedish population and for over 95 percent of Sweden's surface, and it will have a data speed of 200 kbps.
- Beeline Russia is testing NB-IoT services for housing utilities in the Marino area of Moscow. Beeline has created an open test site (a ‘smart quarter’) for IoT technologies for housing and communal services with 800MHz NB-IoT connectivity, and is inviting third parties to carry out testing using the network.
- Telenor Denmark is set to deploy NB-IoT, LTE-M and eSIMs this year. Telenor Denmark said it will be installing IoT nationwide this year, using both NB-IoT standard for stationary items and LTE-M for moving ones such as vehicle trackers.
- Hrvatski Telekom is the first in Croatia to launch an NB-IoT network to support services such as smart parking systems, waste management, air quality monitoring, asset and consignment tracking, smart meters, smart home, and health monitoring, as well as to track the location of family members, pets and property.
- CNHK (China Mobile Hong Kong) together with property developer Sino Group have signed an agreement to deploy a narrowband IoT network across Sino Group's residential and commercial properties. The partnership aims to develop pre-5G infrastructure initially focused on the provision of smart home, smart shopping mall and smart property management solutions. The deployment is meant to support Hong Kong's transformation into a smart city and help accelerate social development.
- Vodafone Australia is using its NB-IoT network to transform traditional beer kegs into "smart kegs" with IoT sensors that enable monitoring keg location, wholeness, inventory and beer freshness in real time.
- 3 Sweden connected E.On gas meters in Skane to an NB-IoT grid.
- Reliance JIO announced in February a partnership with Samsung to deploy a cellular IoT network across India. It has confirmed that an NB-IoT network is already operational in Mumbai and will soon expand to other parts of the country. The company expects to see many consumer and enterprise applications for the service including vehicle tracking, smart appliances, smart metering, security and surveillance.
- Greek Mobile Carrier Cosmote partnered with Ericsson to deploy an NB-IoT network. NB-IoT will support the emerging mMTC (massive Machine Type Communication) use-cases across the country.
- Telstra has announced at CES 2018 that its NB-IoT network is now live across all major cities in Australia, including not only capital cities but also major regional cities.
- Singtel and Ericsson rolled out Singapore's first commercial NB-IoT network
- Verizon confirmed plans to build a nationwide NB-IoT network across its entire 2.56 million-mile footprint this year. The carrier recently completed an NB-IoT data session using Ericsson’s Internet of Things (IoT) software.
- MTS Russia launched the Open IoT Lab in Moscow to demonstrate and pilot a wide range of IoT solutions, bringing together IoT suppliers and customers to further stimulate growth in the market. It is the first of its kind in Russia based on NB-IoT technology and launched under the GSMA Mobile IoT initiative.
- Deutsche Telekom is deploying the NB-IoT technology across Europe and North America.
- Vodafone Czech Republic and Veolia Energie Czech Republic have introduced the first commercial NB-IoT project in the country. One thousand smart meters for heat supply will be connected to the NB-IoT network, initially in Prague and Ostrava.
- Vodacom South Africa's first commercially available NB-IoT network is operational in Gauteng. The company expects the roll-out to accelerate IoT adoption rates and is currently averaging 55 000 new IoT connections per month.
- In February 2018, Vodafone Germany announced the launch of an NB-IoT network in Germany. The operator will upgrade around 90 percent of its LTE base stations to support the technology over the next six months.
- Vodafone Ireland has become the first mobile network operator to commercially launch an NB-IoT network in Ireland to connect a myriad of smart machines. The mobile operator said that Irish consumers will see a huge variety of products, services and applications enabled by NB-IoT that will power smart homes, smart factories, smart stores, connected cars and even smart cities.
- M1 Singapore and SG Bike have partnered to use the NB-IoT network to more accurately identify the location of bikes and curb errant parking.
- Orange Belgium has hit 100 percent indoor and outdoor coverage for its Internet of Things network with customers now able to select to run services on NB-IoT and LTE-M technologies. The operator said its Mobile IoT offering would enable millions of objects to be connected to the IoT, citing smart furniture, and asset tracking as key use-cases . It has already developed connected bike, smart plugs and smart parking solutions.
- Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong Holdings (HTHKH) has announced that its city-wide narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) network is now ready for commercialized applications. Last September, the mobile operator completed construction of an NB-IoT network using the 900-MHz band in collaboration with Huawei.