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How NB-IoT is Transforming Connectivity – An Intro to NB-IoT
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Introduction

NB-IoT is a wireless IoT protocol that uses Low Power Wide Area Network technology and operates within licensed frequency bands. NB-IoT typically offers a communication range of up to 5 km under standard conditions. In areas with minimal interference and clear line of sight, such as rural settings, this range can extend up to 15 km. Its Low Power technology aims to enable small bit-rate communications among connected objects over a long distance.

Developed by 3GPP, NB-IoT was designed to address the connectivity needs of the expanding IoT landscape, specifically for extended Machine Type Communications (eMTC). It provides stable network coverage with high connection density. NB-IoT seamlessly integrates with existing mobile networks, enabling efficient and reliable connectivity for IoT devices.

Why NB-IoT?

NB IoT offers several advantages:

Energy efficiency: Its built-in power saving mode conserves battery power by deactivating the NB-IoT module until an event trigger activates it, extending battery life.

Cost-effectiveness: With low networking and data charges, NB-IoT networks are economical for specific applications, making them a cost-effective choice.

Connectivity over long distances: The Narrowband IoT architecture is specifically engineered to transmit small data packets efficiently across extensive distances, ensuring reliable connectivity even in remote areas.

Versatile Applications: NB-IoT supports a wide range of use cases, including smart city applications like lighting and metering, as well as industrial, ecological, and agricultural monitoring, making it a versatile solution for various industries and sectors.

How NB-IoT Works

The NB-IoT network is built upon existing LTE technology. Leveraging this foundation, NB-IoT provides connections with reduced interference and extensive coverage by using frequencies that are not typically utilized by existing communication networks.

Frequency Bands of NB-IoT:

  • North America: B4 (1700), B12 (700), B66 (1700), B71 (600), B26 (850)
  • Asia Pacific: B1(2100), B3(1800), B5(850), B8(900), B18(850), B20(800), B26(850) and B28(700)
  • Europe: B3 (1800), B8 (900) and B20 (800)
  • Latin America: B2(1900), B3(1800), B5(850) and B28(700)
  • Commonwealth of Independent States: B3 (1800), B8 (900) and B20 (800)
  • Sub-Saharan Africa: B3(1800) and B8(900)
  • Middle East and North Africa: B8(900) and B20(800)

These interconnected systems consist of devices and sensors specifically engineered to gather data from the surrounding environment and send it to base stations or NB-IoT nodes. Operating within licensed cellular frequency bands, NB-IoT uses the restricted BPSK and QPSK modulation schemes with only one antenna support both in uplink and downlink transmission. This is cost-effective technology, making it accessible to small businesses and public organizations. It extends coverage to rural and remote areas, connecting them to IoT devices.

Deploying Narrowband IoT Technology

In-band: Uses resource blocks in a normal LTE carrier.

Guard band:  Uses unused resource blocks within an LTE carrier.

Standalone: Spectrum currently used by GSM EDGE Radio Access Network systems in place of GSM carriers when cellular services are not available.

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Source: digi.com/attachment

Difference Between NB-IoT and LTE-M

NB-IoT and LTE-M are both viable connectivity options tailored for IoT applications. However, they vary in bandwidth, data rate, coverage, and energy efficiency. The choice between them depends on the application and the device’s specific needs, with one technology potentially being more appropriate than the other. NB-IoT can be deployed on both 2G (GSM) and 4G (LTE) networks, while LTE-M is solely for 4G. However, LTE-M is already compatible with the existing LTE network, while NB-IoT requires specific hardware.

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Source: narrowband.com/table

Overall, NB-IoT is less powerful than LTE-M in terms of speed and data transmission. It is solely designed for the applications requiring low speed transmissions and small amount of data while LTE-M can handle low-power low-speed to high-power high bandwidth devices. LTE-M is good choice for urban areas where there are higher number of base stations whereas NB-IoT can operate better in both urban and rural areas. LTE-M’s is more suitable for mobile applications due to better handover capabilities.

NB IoT Security

As IoT device growth accelerates, digital security becomes a bigger concern. This is especially true as critical infrastructure such as energy and utility operations adopt NB-IoT for smart sensor communication. Due to its foundation on the LTE technology framework standardized by 3GPP, NB-IoT employs the same robust security features as LTE. Consequently, NB-IoT encryption ensures that all transmitted data undergoes encryption using standard LTE encryption protocols.

Benefits Of NB IoT

Below are some of the practical benefits of using NB IoT.

  • Low Power Consumption

In the realm of IoT, maintaining sustained battery life is paramount. With its low power consumption and Power Saving Mode (PSM) when it’s not checking for incoming data, devices using NB-IoT has an average battery life of 10+ years on average.

  • Penetrative Signals

NB-IoT’s low bit rate frequency facilitates connectivity in areas where signals might otherwise be inaccessible. Consequently, it emerges as the superior technology for use in underground and other confined spaces, where traditional signals struggle to penetrate.

  • Cost Efficient

Due to its low bandwidth requirements, NB-IoT is much less expensive to deploy than other IoT technologies. This makes it possible for organizations to provide low-cost connectivity for many devices, even in remote and hard-to-reach locations.

  • Global Connectivity

NB-IoT has the capability to coexist with 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. It can establish direct connections between sensors and base stations, eliminating the necessity for a gateway.

Issues And Drawbacks

Following are the drawbacks of NB IoT:

  • Limited Data Transmission

NB-IoT is specifically designed for low data transfer rates, which can limit the types of applications it can effectively support. Typically, NB-IoT is not suitable for applications requiring voice or video transmission. Moreover, in comparison to other technologies, NB-IoT exhibits a notably lower data downlink rate around 26 Kbps and uplink rate around 66 Kbps.

  • Limited Device Mobility

NB-IoT is designed for stationary or slow-moving IoT devices, such as smart meters, environmental sensors, or specific types of asset trackers. Additionally, NB-IoT has limitations in terms of handover and roaming capabilities. However, it’s worth noting that efforts to address these limitations are underway, as evidenced by the latest release from 3GPP.

NB IoT Applications

Below are some of the applications of NB IoT:

  • Smart Metering
  • Smart City
  • Smart Building
  • Asset Tracking
  • Smart Healthcare
  • Autonomous Driving

Conclusion

In conclusion, NB-IoT offers numerous advantages compared to other IoT technologies, encompassing efficient bandwidth utilization, long battery life, reliable connectivity, affordability, and robust security. These attributes render NB-IoT well-suited for a wide range of IoT applications across various sectors, spanning from industrial and automotive to healthcare and retail. With its capacity to connect numerous devices over long distances, NB-IoT has the potential of revolutionizing both our personal and professional environments.

 

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