Cellular standards body 3GPP has announced that it has completed work on the standardisation of NB-IoT (Narrowband Internet of Things), the new narrowband 4G LTE radio technology developed for the Internet of Things.
3GPP has included three types of low power wide area (LPWA) IoT technologies within Release 13 – the new standalone NB-IoT, which can be deployed in existing LTE bands, LTE guard-bands or as a standalone option.
The second technology is enhanced Machine Type Communication (eMTC), also known as LTE Cat M1, is an evolution of standard LTE technology. The third type is Enhanced Coverage GSM-IoT (EC-GSM-IoT), which utilises narrowband technology within the GSM (2G/EDGE) bands.
The portfolio of new technologies means that 3GPP operators can now use the three types of narrowband IoT to address their different market requirements:
• NB-IoT - a new radio added to the LTE platform, optimised for the low end of the market
• eMTC – delivering further LTE enhancements for Machine Type Communications, building on the work that started in Release-12 (UE Cat 0, new power saving mode)
• EC-GSM-IoT – bringing EGPRS enhancements, which in combination with Power Save Mode (PSM) makes GSM/EDGE systems IoT ready.
All three types are designed to be deployed in licensed spectrum, unlike other LPWA standards such as Sigfox, LoRa, Ingenu and Weightless, which are largely designed for use in unlicensed bands.
The changes implementing NB-IoT have been incorporated into LTE Release 13 (LTE Advanced Pro). 3GPP added that while corrections are still possible in the coming months, the feature is now frozen in the specification, and only essential backward-compatible changes will be allowed from now onwards.
Dino Flore, the Chairman of 3GPP RAN, said: “It took us only nine months to standardise the new technology after the study phase. Once again 3GPP demonstrated the ability to quickly respond to the emerging market needs.”
The GSMA today (23 June 2016) welcomed 3GPP’s decision to standardise three LPWA technologies in licensed spectrum in Release 13, as it says it ensures customer choice and will help the Internet of Things (IoT) market to flourish.
“The GSMA established the Mobile IoT Initiative with the specific purpose of aligning the mobile industry behind common and complementary LPWA technologies in licensed spectrum and we are pleased that the industry has moved so quickly to adopt them and that they have now been ratified by 3GPP,” said Alex Sinclair, chief technology officer, GSMA.
“Mobile operators have already started a number of pilots around the world and this agreement over common standards will help accelerate the development of commercial solutions and ensure they are in market much faster, providing customers with more choice.”
LPWA networks are an emerging, high-growth area of the IoT that complement and extend conventional wide area networks that make use of 2G, 3G and 4G cellular technologies. These new standards will allow operators to optimise their existing high-quality mobile network infrastructure through an upgrade to EC-GSM-IoT for 2G networks and LTE-MTC for LTE networks, while NB-IoT can use both 2G and 4G spectrum to deliver a secure, reliable and robust performance.
The GSMA Mobile IoT initiative is backed by 30 global mobile operators, device makers and chipset, module and infrastructure companies and has helped the industry align on common technology standards in licensed spectrum for the emerging LPWA market.
LPWA networks are designed for M2M applications that have low data rates, require long battery lives and operate unattended for long periods of time, often in remote locations. They will be used for a wide variety of applications such as industrial asset tracking, safety monitoring, water and gas metering, smart grids, city parking, vending machines and city lighting.