In contrast to the standard cellular networks, the radio coverage with NB-IoT is also available in places that are difficult to access, such as underground. NarrowBand IoT is an LPWA technology (Low Power Wide Area). Another term for NB-IoT is LTE Cat NB1. It can be integrated into existing mobile networks by network operators for the various applications of the Internet of Things.
Compared to GSM, UMTS or LTE, the major advantage is that NarrowBand IoT can also be used in places where the range and quality of 2G, 3G or 4G mobile radio signals is too low, thanks to good building penetration. NarrowBand IoT is designed for applicationswhere traditional network technologies such as WIFI, Bluetooth or cellular are unavailable, impractical or unprofitable. Mobile providers can operate NB-IoT in their licensed frequency spectrum of LTE networks or standalone in a dedicated radio spectrum
NB-IoT does not yet support full mobility. NB-IoT devices need to alternate between different cells as they change location and travel around; this can decrement battery life of the devices. LTE-M devices do not have to reselect cells when they change location.
For example Shared scooter applications or fleet tracking operations may decide to opt for LTE-M. While NB-IoT connections may be theoretically possible, the devices will likely suffer from faster battery depletion, increased latency and a less reliable connection. Intrinsically, by design, NB-IoT was designed to be used for stationary devices.
The specifications of NB-IoT improve the ranges and signal levels of the mobile radio network. At the same time, the complexity of the radio module is reduced and the maximum transmission rates in the transmit and receive directions are limited. Thus, NB-IoT achieves an additional 20dB in its power transmission balance and network coverage.
Due to the limited data rates, only narrowband applications are possible. The maximum download and upload data rates are 250 kilobits per second. The channels are each only 180 kilohertz wide. Thanks to these narrow channel widths, NarrowBand IoT can be operated both inband on regular LTE carriers and outband, for example in the guard band (gap between the radio bands).
If LTE bands such as the 900 MHz and 800 MHz range are used, this results in even better building penetration, as the longer-wave radio signals of lower frequency penetrate objects and obstacles better than, for example, LTE signals in the 1,800 MHz or 2,600 MHz frequency bands. The range increase of NarrowBand IoT is achieved, among other things, by a more robust modulation technology.
Huawei and Gemalto are by many considered to be the main drivers behind the increasing development of NB-IoT. They have combined their core competencies in a large cooperation. Gemalto provides its expertise in digital security as well as connectivity, while Huawei leverages its expertise in developing compact, yet high-performance NB-IoT chipsets, which will help IoT device manufacturers to shrink the size and material costs of their devices.
The upfront deployment costs for companies will reflect these savings in manufacturing. Thus the financial barrier of entry can be considerably lowered. NB-IoT is an open standard. In contrast, proprietary LPWAN standards like LoRa or Sigfox heavily regulate the market for products using their protocol. Only licensed manufacturers and partners are allowed to develop products that function on their protocol. NB-IoT does not have this limit as the standard itself is not proprietary; any company can contribute to the development of NB-IoT.
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