What is NB-IoT?
NB-IoT is a low cost cellular LPWAN technology that can offer long battery life (up to 10 years) and long-range communication with better penetration than 2G, allowing your device to stay connected in hard-to-reach places including subterranean, indoor and rural areas.
Mass IoT deployments are made possible as cell sites providing NB-IoT connectivity can support up to 10,000 connections, however handovers between different cell towers are not supported.
Data rates are very low (tens of Kilobytes per second) with high latencies that could be up to 20 seconds, meaning that the preferred protocol is UDP rather than TCP.
As the name suggests, many of these features are a result of operating with a very narrow bandwidth, less than 200KHz. This allows the carrier to operate in guard bands of other LTE services, offering otherwise unused parts of the spectrum.
The low power consumption comes from the ability to sleep for long periods between receiving data, known as extended Discontinuous Reception (eDRX). Additionally, Power Saving Mode (PSM) allows the radio to be shut down completely and doesn’t need to re-attach itself to the network when it is switched back on, however it cannot receive any data in PSM.
As a result, NB-IoT is best suited for stationary devices that send very small amounts of data (under 5MB per month), can tolerate long latencies and are located in places that other technologies would struggle to get signal to.
The benefits of NB-IoT
Lower hardware costs and longer battery life offset by:
NB-IoT will provide the most energy efficient solution for applications that are battery or solar powered.
Long product life cycles
NB-IoT helps support long application life cycles for sensor applications where data traffic is low and transferred intermittently, uses batteries/with no mains power.
Strong signal penetration
The deepest reach of any LPWA network from basements, Battery efficient NB-IoT will provide the most energy efficient solution for applications that are battery or solar powered.
Low hardware and operating costs make long-term, massive volume IoT deployments viable.
Considerations for deploying NB-IoT
Currently limited or no coverage in many countries
Only a single network per country
Single network in most countries limits resilience
NB-IoT is data only (no SMS/Voice) and doesn’t support FOTA*
Not compatible with eSIM
Standard eSIM implementations require SMS which NB-IoT does not support
2G/3G network sunsetting
NB-IoT is a good alternative to 2G/3G in some use-cases
*firmware over the air
NB-IoT use cases
Applications that require higher data rates, Over-the-Air updates or low latencies won’t be well suited to NB-IoT, but instead will be good candidates for LTE-M, which is comparable to 3G.
As an asset that may be deep inside a building, smart meters will benefit from the increased sensitivity of NB-IoT and only needs to send small amounts of data, which can have long latencies.
Smart cities, industrial, agricultural or residential settings are ideal for NB-IoT.. When the attributes being monitored are slow to change, such as environmental temperature and humidity, they can work within the limits of the data rates and will benefit from a very long battery life.
The development of NB-IoT included ‘secure by design’ characteristics, making it suitable for applications requiring secure communication.
How to get started with NB-IoT?
If it’s clear that your next generation of devices will need to support NB-IoT (even if they have a 2G fallback), you’ll need to be aware of a few things that you’ll need to do differently from a technical perspective.
While many IoT devices currently send data over HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), an NB-IoT device should use the Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP). This is very similar to HTTP, but it’s been designed for constrained devices and is very lightweight. Engineers familiar with HTTP shouldn’t have a problem working with CoAP, but it’s worth understanding that it will mean making changes to your server as well as the device that’s sending data.
The other big difference is that voice calls are not supported and Short Message Service (SMS) protocols are not widely supported. This will mean that any products making use of SMS messages to update settings will need to use an alternative method via IP, such as queuing messages for downlinks.
To get started you’ll need development hardware and some M2M SIM cards. We can provide test SIM cards in either 2FF, 3FF, 4FF or solderable embedded formats. Our expert technical team will be available to answer any questions that you may have. We can also facilitate access to the Vodafone NB-IoT open labs to test your devices.
SIMs are managed and controlled through our industry leading SIM management platform, SIMPro. Low-cost NB-IoT Modules from manufacturers including uBlox, Quectel and others are currently available for mass production. We’d be happy to advise you on what might be the best fit for your devices.asdfasdfsdf
|Need||Alternative to NB-IoT||Reason|
|Battery life||LTE Cat-1 BIS||LTE Cat 1BIS is significantly lower power than NB-IoT, meaning it’s more sustainable when data roaming.|
|Range and in-building protection||LTE Cat-1 BIS||LTE Cat 1BIS is supported on all 4G base-stations as standard, whereas NB-IoT is not (yet).|
|Lower cost modules & Smaller module sizes||LTE Cat-1 BIS||LTE Cat 1BIS modules have the same dimensions but for a lower price than the NB-IoT counterparts.|
|Alternative to 2G/3G/4G||LTE Cat-1 BIS||LTE Cat 1BIS is available on all 4G networks and benefits from the existing expansive roaming agreements. This means devices can access 3-5 networks per country. NB-IoT, however, is not yet compatible with eSIM..|
Is NB-IoT secure?
Yes. All 3GPP technologies are secure by design.
Does NB-IoT need a sim card?
3GPP cellular technologies do require a SIM, although it doesn’t need to be card format. It could also be a chip SIM.
Does NB-IoT support sms?
Currently, SMS is not supported. This makes NB-IoT incompatible with eSIM which relies on SMS to control over-the-air profile transactions.
While the original NB-IoT standard does not include SMS, this could change in the future as it doesn’t prevent MNOs implementing the technology itself.
Does NB-IoT support voice?
No, voice is not supported. Nb-IoT was designed to support data-only IoT devices with long battery life and very small, infrequent data transfer requirements.
Your applications will be secure
NB-IoT is a highly secure and cost-effective way to provide connectivity to static applications and devices that generate low data traffic or have a long life cycle. NB-IoT is compatible with specific modules which our IoT solution experts can advise on and comes with LTE grade security as standard, keeping your data and network secure.
Why Wireless Logic for NB-IoT?
Knowledge and expertise from our IoT experts to help you select the right solution and keep total cost of ownership low.
Network choice and access to MNO expertise and test labs for your applications.
NB-IoT services fully integrated into our SIM management platform, SIMPro.
Multi-layer security that builds in the high security standards built into NB-IoT. ISO27001 certified.
Fast and expert deployment, solution design, customer service and tech support.