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What is NB-IoT? How IoT Can Benefit from this Network

5 minute read

Low power wide area (LPWA) networks are becoming incredibly viable options for IoT due to the ability of both technologies to support long-lasting, lower-complexity devices for up to 10 years, as well as having a large enough bandwidth to support the collection of data across a wide IoT ecosystem.

The two technologies, Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and Long Term Machine Type Evolution (LTE-M), both provide benefits of LPWA, including scalability, indoor and outdoor coverage, and low device unit cost, among others. The ability to more simply deploy LPWA networks, according to the GSMA, has the potential to largely contribute to Massive IoT – which is large-scale deployments of low complexity devices driving analytics in fields such as logistics, agriculture, retail, and more.

ABI Research estimates that by 2026, NB-IoT, as well as LTE-M will contribute to 60 percent of the projected 3.6 million LPWA connections. Globally, there are 110 NB-IoT networks, according to GSMA.

IoT Analytics expects that NB-IoT and LoRa/LoRaWAN will continue to dominate the market in the coming five years, with LTE-M and Sigfox in distant third and fourth places, respectively. NB-IoT, as a single technology, now dominates the LPWA connection market with a 44 percent market share. Growth in NB-IoT has been driven by smart meters, buildings, and infrastructure industry segments.

Characteristics of NB-IoT

How does NB-IoT compare to LTE-M? With two similar connectivity technologies, there are a few differences to take into consideration for IoT solutions.

NB-IoT, in addition to LTE-M, is part of the 3GPP standard that aims to make IoT interoperable and reliable. Given that many IoT solutions thrive on lower data transmission with less frequency and are often in remote or moving locations where a long battery life is valued, both LPWA technologies leverage the reliability of cellular connectivity, while optimizing battery life and coverage.

NB-IoT builds on the LTE physical layer and was designed to offer extended coverage. Single-tone transmissions allow for enhanced latency in poor coverage areas. This connectivity technology has a strong penetrative signal that allows it to achieve connectivity underground and in rural areas.

Advantages of NB-IoT include:

  • Interoperability and compatibility with other legacy cellular systems
  • Scalability
  • Quality of service
  • Extended coverage and penetration

And some of the use cases best suited for NB-IoT are:

  • Retail applications for point of sale
  • Smart home applications
  • Smart cities
  • IoT in buildings (alarm systems, HVAC units)
  • Agriculture
  • Smart metering for utilities

The Difference in NB-IoT and LTE-M

The similarities between LTE-M and NB-IoT are close and it comes down to a few key differences. LTE-M supports voice transmission, whereas NB-IoT does not. LTE-M is also designed for mobility, as it will not lose or drop ongoing data transfers. Additionally, LTE-M has slightly better latency than NB-IoT. Those qualities, however, create drawbacks for LTE-M that it marginally bumps up the complexity of the device, which in turn can raise the device cost and the network connectivity cost.

Overall, NB-IoT is best used for stationary devices that don’t require Voice over LTE (VoLTE) for less device complexity and connectivity cost.

The IoT Connectivity You Need, Simplified

KORE offers a wide range of connectivity solutions, including NB-IoT, LTE-M, LoRaWAN, 4G LTE, and 5G, as well as satellite services. Our unified approach to connectivity through strategic carrier partnerships allows us to offer multi-network and multi-technology connectivity simplified. Our streamlined connectivity management platform, ConnectivityProTM, makes it easy to deploy and manage connectivity, and our suite of OmniSIMTM solutions unlocks global, future-proofed connectivity.

Get more details on the connectivity powering the emerging Massive IoT trend in this KORE webinar, “LPWA IoT Technology Advantages – Catching the Wave.”

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Topic(s): Connectivity , Featured

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