Narrowband-IoT Proves its Worth

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One of the more talked about wireless communication technologies for the Internet of Things (IoT) is Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT). If you don’t already know, NB-IoT is a cellular-based narrowband technology that uses licensed spectrum.

Although it is integrated in the LTE standard, NB-IoT is actually a new air interface. It was standardized by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) as part of Release 13 this past June, but development is not expected to stop there. And applications for the technology will likely span a broad range, from smart metering and smart cities to agriculture and white-goods monitoring.

For the most part, today’s cellular networks are not intended for applications that transmit small amounts of data—this is where NB-IoT steps in. NB-IoT is intended to be simple and efficient, with objectives that include improving battery life and lowering device costs. Another goal is improvement of coverage areas. Locations that cannot be reached easily, such as those deep within buildings, should reap the benefits of NB-IoT.

One company deeply involved with NB-IoT technology is u-blox, as evidenced by its SARA-N2 series of modules. The series is comprised of three modules—the SARA-N200, SARA-N201, and SARA-N210—each covering a different NB-IoT band.

On another front, Nokia recently conducted an IoT trial in Finland using NB-IoT technology. Nokia utilized NB-IoT to enable communication over Sonera’s (a Finnish operator) 4G network in Helsinki. In addition, a roaming device was connected over the network using NB-IoT.

Nokia base-station technology, operating in the 800-MHz frequency band, was used by the Sonera network—speeds reached as high as 200 kb/s. The trial results clearly proved the significant potential possessed by NB-IoT technology in terms of supporting the IoT.

It goes without saying that many wireless technologies are currently in play for the IoT. Although time will reveal how it all plays out, NB-IoT is surely one to keep close tabs on.

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Chris DeMartino

Chris has worked in the RF/microwave industry since 2004. Throughout this time, he has helped to develop and test a variety of RF/microwave components and assemblies for both commercial and military...
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