Narrowband IoT (also known as NB-IoT or LTE-M2) is an LPWAN technology which doesn’t operate in the licensed LTE construct. Instead, it works in one of three ways:
In unused 200-kHz bands that have previously been used for GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications)
On LTE base stations allocating a resource block to NB-IoT operations or in their guard bands.
Nevertheless, with so much underutilized 200-kHz GSM spectrum many are looking to make this the best low power, wide-area network yet And with the dawn of 5G, cellular IoT has an even brighter future.
Efficiently powering IoT devices is critical. Think about it: who wants to be out there changing the batteries on 20 billion devices every six months? While nearly all IoT technologies are developed to save power when they aren’t operating, they do draw energy when the modem is running and handling signal processing.
Technologies with simpler waveform — like NB-IoT — will consume less power. A 200 kHz NB-IoT frontend and digitizer offers reduced complexity of analog-to-digital (A/D) and digital-to-analog (D/A) conversion, buffering, and channel estimation. Power savings = cost savings. Plus, NB-IoT chips are simpler to create and thus come cheaper.
Rolling out NB-IoT on a licensed spectrum means improved reliability for users as well as the guaranteed resource allocation needed for managed Quality of Service (QoS).
Compared to LTE-M1, NB-IoT has lower bitrates and better link budgets. Additionally, NB-IoT doesn’t need gateways to provide connectivity. Instead of “creating another piece of equipment you need to manage and operate,” he said, NB-IoT can directly connect sensors to the base station. This will boost flexibility while lowering costs.
While heavy hitters in the U.S. have already invested billions into LTE networks, there are many areas around the world with less LTE, even though pilots and network rollouts are in full swing. Outside of the U.S., there are larger GSM deployments on which to find unused bands to leverage for NB-IoT. NB-IoT then could help IoT innovators find affordable entry points in new markets globally.