Engineers from Vodafone and Huawei have completed the first over-the-air connection on a live network using the recently standardised NB-IoT (Narrowband IoT) standard. The commercial trial took place in Madrid, Spain.
NB-IoT (officially referred to by 3GPP as LTE Cat NB1) is an industrial grade Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) network layer designed to connect millions of everyday objects requiring only small data transfers. LPWAN technology is a vital component in helping to drive mass adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT).
The connection was successfully completed on 19 September 2016 at 14:11 CET. The engineers used a live 4G base station that supports NB-IoT technology. The connection was made using the 800 MHz licenced spectrum frequency band.
The test is the last important milestone before the commercial launch of NB-IoT in 2017 when standardised chipsets will be widely available.
NB-IoT is designed to connect objects in difficult to reach locations that have low power requirements and that have been too expensive to connect previously. Importantly, NB-IoT also offers enterprises the reliability and safeguards they need as it operates in licenced spectrum and provides the same levels of security to 4G.
NB-IoT will be supported by over 20 of the world’s largest mobile operators, who provide communications to over 2.9 billion customers and geographically serve over 90% of the IoT market.
It provides a cellular licensed spectrum alternative to existing LPWAN standards such as SIGFOX, LoRa and Ingenu, which utilised unlicensed spectrum bands. NB-IoT is attractive to mobile network operators as they can use their existing spectrum and infrastructure as they only need a software upgrade to their base stations to be able to support it.
The NB-IoT specification was finalised as a global standard by 3GPP in June 2016 and Vodafone is the first to complete a trial of standardised NB-IoT on a live commercial network.
Matt Beal, Vodafone’s Group Director of Technology Architecture & Strategy, commented: “This first successful trial of NB-IoT on a live commercial network is a significant technology milestone on the path towards a world with billions of devices connected at extremely low cost with minimal power requirements to mobile networks.
“NB-IoT has strong support as the industrial LPWA technology to support our enterprise customers. This successful trial demonstrates Vodafone’s commitment and ability to bring this technology to market early in 2017.”
Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line at Huawei, said: “With our decade-long strategic partnership with Vodafone, the first live call using standardised NB-IoT marks a significant milestone in our long term relationship.
“Working with Vodafone, we have successfully achieved standardisation of NB-IoT and established the world’s first Open Lab to contribute to the development and promotion of its ecosystem. Huawei will continue to work closely with Vodafone on the commercialisation of NB-IoT to open the door to a truly Better Connected World.”