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Narrowband – Internet of Things (NB-IoT) – Explained

Internet of Things has a huge role in the current technological development. In today’s time, one cannot imagine any task without the usage of internet. It helps us by making our each task easier. In this article, we will be focusing on Narrowband IoT or NB-IoT, which is known as a wireless communication standard for the IoT. This unique technology relates to the low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN). NB-IoT helps in connecting devices that need small amounts of data, low bandwidth, and long battery life.  NB-IoT focuses on indoor coverage, low cost, long battery life, and high connection density. NB-IoT uses a subset of the LTE standard but limits the bandwidth to a single narrow-band of 200kHz. It uses OFDM modulation for downlink communication and SC-FDMA for uplink communications. IoT applications which require more frequent communications will be better served by NB-IoT, which has no duty cycle limitations operating on the licensed spectrum.

NarrowbandWhat is Massive IoT?

Massive IoT always comes in mind whenever we talk about NB-IoT.  Massive IoT’s name is enough to understand the meaning, it’s about the amount. It deploys immense amount of low-complexity devices that do not need to communicate with great frequency. The main used cases include low-cost sensors, meters, wearables and trackers. Many of these can be deployed in challenging radio environments, such as a basement of a building or on a moving piece of machinery, and will be relied upon to send occasional signals for up to 10 years, without a change of battery. This makes power consumption and conservation critical aspects.

NB IOTNB-IoT and Massive IoT

There is a tough competition between NB-IoT and Massive IoT.  NB-IoT generally being used in applications that resemble those deployed in projects where non-cellular standards are often found. There are few cases where it can be used, like: smart agriculture, several smart city applications (e.g. smart parking, smart street lighting, waste management), some smart home applications, smart meters (and given indoor penetration, submetering), manufacturing automation, smart grid applications, smoke detectors, industrial IoT applications (IIoT) with many low-power devices, also in Industry 4.0 with for example condition monitoring and even predictive maintenance, smart locks, environmental monitoring, trackers and more.

Importance of NB-IoT

NB-IoT provides up to or even little over 10 years of battery life. If we comparison it with LTE-M, so it is nowhere better than NB-IoT.  Think buildings, remote and hard to reach locations, and even underground to an extent. LTE-M is suitable for indoor coverage too but NB-IoT is better. Technical stuff regarding reach and penetration or, in one word, coverage: maximum coupling loss of NB-IoT is 164 dB, which is a 20 dB better link budget compared to GPRS.

IOTNB-IoT Future

According to a research, by 2026, NB-IoT and LTE-M will capture over 60% of the 3.6 billion LPWA network connections.  Recently, Tata Power Delhi Distribution (Tata Power-DDL), has launched Narrow Band-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) for smart meters installed in its service area.

“After successfully installing 2.3 Lakh smart meters on RF (radio frequency) technology, Tata Power Delhi Distribution (Tata Power-DDL) has launched a unique Narrow Band-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) technology in Smart Meters. This is the first installation of its kind in the country where smart meters have been installed on NB-IoT,” the electricity distribution company said in a statement to a news wesbsite.

Acceptance of NB-IoT has been late for several years and still is. Some operators have a wait and see attitude for various reasons. Some players have been very optimistic regarding NB-IoT and how it would replace non-cellular offerings, but the latter isn’t going to happen in the short term as predicted many years ago.


Nitisha Dubey

I am a Journalist with a post graduate degree in Journalism & Mass Communication. I love reading non-fiction books, exploring different destinations and varieties of cuisines. Biographies and historical movies are few favourites.

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