Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT): Reaching Unreachable Communication Areas

Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT): Reaching Unreachable Communication Areas

As one of the rapidly expanding Internet of Things connectivity tech, with robust industry support and globally standardized strategies, NB-IoT has the potential to take the IoT market to new heights ‒ even with the new reality of the business sphere the world is facing currently. The pandemic opened up new paths for the IoT enterprise in a broad spectrum of fields where security, surveillance, and social distancing play an essential part. The market for IoT solutions is anticipated to witness a surging demand over the next few years due to the emergence of pandemic-driven challenges.

Until now, only 10% of all IoT connections were supported by cellular networks, which can be accredited to the fact that the majority of these connections are industrial IoT solutions, which are easily accessible on low bandwidth and efficient connection that can support enhanced battery life. However, the advent of 5G network technology and NB-IoT has dramatically changed the ratio of cellular connectivity to non-cellular connectivity. The fusion, termed ‘fast-growing cellular technology,’ offers a low-power, highly efficient, and cost-effective connectivity while using a fragment of the frequency band of 4G LTE.

Narrowband IoT: Comprehensive Overview

Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is an advanced communication method that requires minute amounts of data for more extended periods, in unreachable or difficult areas. Narrowband IoT is a Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) technology that seamlessly connects IoT devices on pre-established mobile networks. It is a technology standard designed and launched by 3GPP to power a broad spectrum of cellular devices and services. It was standardized as part of 3GPP Release-13 in 2016.

Narrowband IoT is a low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) technology, the operations of which are not dependent on the licensed LTE infrastructure. The technology, in fact, works in either of the three ways:

  • Independently
  • In previously used 200 kHz bands and now unused.
  • On LTE base stations that offer resource block for NB-IoT operations

At the core of it, the technology is a narrowband and low-power technology that efficiently handles small amounts of data in an efficient, secure, and reliable two-way transmission. It has the capacity to establish a connection between large cohorts of devices while simultaneously decreasing consumption of power and boosting the coverage range in locations where traditional cellular technologies cannot reach.

NB-IoT Rising to the Communication Challenges

The future of connectivity is wireless – with a stable, reliable, and resilient connectivity. Several connected things are typically located in areas that are far-off or challenging to reach, generally very far from the near base or station of a cellular network. Places like these have low coverage, require high power transmitters, and are battery-draining devices. Moreover, cellular networks are not standardized enough for applications that transfer minor amounts of uncertain data.

Here’s where NB-IoT comes into play. NB-IoT has the potential to establish a connection between several devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) and is enhanced for applications that can transmit small fragments of data for a long period of time. NB-IoT applications pay particular attention to low speed, resilient data transfer, and enhanced reliability.

Extensive Application of NB-IoT in Various Industrial Verticals

Internet of Things (IoT) finds applications for several purposes, and different applications require diverse networks. For instance, remote device operation is apt for LTE or 5G connections for machine-to-machine communications. For short-range networks, such as smart equipment in home settings, LAN, and Wi-Fi connections are more suitable.

As a fast-growing radio technology explicitly dedicated to IoT, NB-IoT covers use cases that require the transmission of small fractions of data over long distances. NB-IoT is anticipated to command the growth of IoT connections, predominantly in regions where enhanced connectivity, longer battery life, cost-efficiency, and improved indoor coverage are vital.

NB-IoT in Smart Infrastructure

NB-IoT supports numerous connections per base station and confers a deeper indoor penetration. For these reasons, NB-IoT is extremely fitted for applications that require low bandwidth, such as intelligent parking systems, waste management, and smart meters. NB-IoT plays a vital role in the regulation and screening of water and gas meters through periodic and minor data transmissions. Meters are generally deployed in an unreachable location, such as cellars or deep underground. NB-IoT provides excellent coverage and penetration to circumvent this issue. Energy and utility companies are rapidly adopting the technology to remotely monitor the power, gas, and water usage in commercial and residential buildings which also helps them in designing energy-conserving strategies.

NB-IoT also plays a pivotal part in helping the government with smart street lighting solutions, in determining when a clean-up is needed, scouting for parking availability, monitoring the environmental conditions, and screening for the state of roads. Sensors connected to NB-IoT send alerts to smart buildings regarding maintenance problems and carry out programmed tasks such as controlling the light and heat. It also has the potential to act as the reinforcement for the broadband connection of the building.

NB-IoT in Connected Devices  

NB-IoT provides the wearable devices long-range connectivity enhancing the screening and monitoring of the health of people who have a long history of chronic and age-related conditions. Additionally, the increasing requirement of wearable devices amidst the COVID-19 pandemic is adding to the growth and expansion of the Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) market.

NB-IoT in Automotive and Telecommunications

Major players of the automotive industry are catering to the concerns surrounding passenger safety by incorporating emerging technologies that can provide safer, convenient, and efficient transportation. The use of NB-IoT is growing exponentially in the automotive industry due to the advanced qualities of NB-IoT to track vehicles, accurately identify and avoid highway congestions, and effectively contribute towards effective traffic management.

The advancement in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data analytics, and the rising adoption of IoT and connected devices across industrial and commercial applications are anticipated to contribute to market growth. Telecommunications operators are an integral part of the NB-IoT ecosystem. By April 2019, as per the Global Mobile Suppliers Association, nearly 124 deployed NB-IoT/LTE-M networks were operated by 104 operators globally. In 2018, T-Mobile US, Inc. deployed the guard band deployment model to launch NB-IoT services across the United States. On December 10, 2020, Indian telecommunications company BSNL partnered with Skylotech India to launch a satellite-based NB-IoT as part of the Digital India vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The new solution will connect BSNL’s satellite grown infrastructure and offer pan-India coverage, including across the seas.

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the NB-IoT Market

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted several industry verticals, significantly disrupting the supply chain of electronic components and networking equipment. According to market estimations, the Global Narrowband-IoT Market has witnessed a slowdown in growth by 2% in 2020. However, with the rising need for wearable devices due to the augmented importance of oxygen level detectors and body temperature measurement, NB-IoT has witnessed a slight growth amid the pandemic. The market is poised to regain momentum due to augmented demand for cloud infrastructure services and increased spending on software solutions.

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