Vodafone Group, Huawei and u-blox have completed the first successful commercial trial of pre-standard NB-IoT (Narrowband Internet of Things) technology.
NB-IoT is a new technology that will extend the Internet of Things (IoT) by making it more efficient to connect objects to the internet which are in areas hard to reach by mobile connectivity or that require a long battery life. Industry technology standards for NB-IoT will be set in early 2016 within LTE Release-13 from global standards organisation 3GPP.
Vodafone and Huawei successfully integrated the technology onto the operator’s existing mobile network in Spain and then sent the first pre-standard NB-IoT message to a u-blox module in a water meter.
Water meters are just one of the objects that NB-IoT could eventually connect. NB-IoT is a LPWA technology that offers low cost, long battery life, wide area coverage for objects requiring a long range mobile connection (e.g. in basements or in shaded areas) and low power consumption (many devices are not connected to mains power or are in areas where one would not want to swap out batteries regularly). NB-IoT promises to achieve up to 10 years’ battery life and deep indoor penetration.
The improved penetration and low power requirements make it possible to connect devices using NB-IoT simply and efficiently using an established mobile network. NB-IoT is viewed by the industry as having application for enterprises in a range of different areas, from utility meters to sensor monitoring to asset-tracking.
The pre-NB IoT commercial technology trial used Huawei’s chipset and software and was the first of its kind to successfully implement narrowband communications in cellular bands. The deployment of NB-IoT in licensed cellular spectrum means it is secure and less susceptible to interference and can provide a better guarantee of service.
LTE NB-IoT is an alternative to the LTE MTC (machine type communication) standard, which is also being developed by 3GPP. This has reached Cat-1 in terms of commercial deployment, with Cat-O expected to reach commercial deployment in 2016 and the Cat-M category, which is 75% simpler than Cat-1 due to become commercially available in 2017.
Matt Beal, Director of Innovation and Architecture, Vodafone Group, commented: “Vodafone has led the development of NB-IoT, the LPWA technology in licensed spectrum that has gained huge industry support. The completion of this first commercial trial with our partners is further evidence of that. Once commercialised, NB-IoT will provide tangible benefits for our enterprise customers, principally making it feasible to connect more devices to the IoT.”
David Wang, President of Huawei’s Wireless Network Business Unit, said: ”NB-IoT technology has been recognised by the industry. With our long-established joint innovation initiative with Vodafone, we are committed to providing innovative solutions to help customers meet their business challenges and to lead the development of the technology and industry ecosystem. Together with Vodafone, we will build a better connected world.”
Andreas Thiel, Executive Director, Cellular Products at u-blox, said: “This collaboration demonstrates that u-blox is a key player in the IoT market, in terms of technical expertise and thought leadership. Along with our partners, we are driving innovation in NB-IoT technology to serve the industry as a whole, and are fully supportive of technology based on global standards.”
Further trials and proof of concept deployments are planned by the companies.
See also: In search of the low-power wide area network standard for IoT