Over last two years, numerous Mobile Network Operators (MNO) announced significant progress in development of NB (narrow band) coverage in their networks. Some European operators already provide country-wide availability. In addition, there are first international roaming agreements in place, putting customers into position to take advantage of this service not only in their home country, put also to access networks while acting abroad.

The aim of the NB initiative is provision of better support for resource- and budget-constrained Internet of Things environment. By 2022, the installed base of NB IoT connections is expected to exceed 2bn devices worldwide. By that time, the forecasted CAGR (compound annual growth rate) will be in region of 35-40 percent in the number of endpoints.

Narrow Band IoT in a nutshell

NB IoT is a new cellular standard for low-power wide-area (LPWA) managed M2M (machine to machine) networks. According to analysts1 - by 2021, this standard will be used by 45 of the world’s largest MNOs. Standard creation was driven by 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP).

Advantages of NB IoT

While compared with conventional 4G/LTE mobile connectivity technologies, NB IoT provides several significant advantages.

  • Comparison of selected IoT connectivity technologies
  LoRa Sigfox NB-IoT
Max. coupling loss 160 dB 157 dB 164 dB
Technology Proprietary Proprietary Open standard
Licensed radio spectrum No No Yes
Bandwidth downlink 50 kbps 0,6 kbps 250 kbps
Bandwidth uplink 50 kbps 0,1 kbps 230 kbps
Expected module costs in USD (long time forecast) < 7 < 3 < 5
Maximum battery life time expectancy Up to 10 years Up to 10 years Up to 10 years
  • Improved indoor coverage

    Compared with GSM, NB IoT is much better suitable for penetration in industrial buildings (warehouses, basements)

  • Low energy consumption

    Hardware manufacturers offer NB IoT module which are able to work up to 10 years with only one “pill size” battery. The assumption here is, that amount of data sent is limited, communication will take place occasionally and the mobile signal strength is satisfactory. In situations which require more frequent communications (and / or higher data volume) the battery life expectancy will be much shorter.

Max. battery life time expectancy for data transmission (sample BearingPoint measures)
Once per week 12,7 years
Once per day 4,2 years
Once per hour 82,1 days
Once per minute 1,4 days
  • Low cost

There are two aspects of low cost of NB IoT technology:  First, the communication modules (often combined with sensors) are provided by manufactures for approximately 10 Euro. It will be widely expected that this price will drop in the near future. Second, MNOs offers multi-technology IoT data plans for 10 Euro covering 10 years lifetime2 period.

  • Mobility

While some of industrial customers and logistics providers are considering setting up their own private mobile networks (using e. g. LTE, LoRa or SigFox technologies) providing coverage for factories and stock locations, NB IoT can be used for in application areas, where communication modules need to move between different locations.

  • High network capacity

NB IoT Standard allows to operate over 100.000 mobile endpoints per single cell.

  • Managed network with agreed SLAs

Usage of existing licensed radio spectrum is for MNO the enabler for higher QoS (quality of service)

Limitations

NB IoT was designed as a pure data transmission technology for stationary or nomadic devices. It is not capable of a seamless handover between cells and does not support application requiring low latency – e. g. voice transmission.

Sample use cases

There are already numerous applications for NB IoT, such as:

  • Asset tracking (incl. containers, vehicles, animals, luggage)
  • Smart metering services (energy consumption)
  • Environmental sensing (e. g. temperature, humidity, vibration…)

How BearingPoint can help you to proceed with NB IoT?

BearingPoint is collaborating with MNOs, hardware manufacturers (preparing bespoke combined sensor/NB IoT solutions) and industrial customers on utilization of the NB IoT technology. Increasing availability of NB networks and introduction of roaming agreements allow deployment of NB based application. The expected cost reduction will increase the variety of use cases implemented in the future (e. g. wearables). Use cases which are from the commercial point of view not suitable today, will be deployed in a horizon of few years.

BearingPoint’s framework allows to integrate both narrow- and wide-band connected endpoints within a single dashboard system. Such an integration is the precondition for advanced business models, like charging for energy consumption (apartment heating) depending on weather conditions (wind, temperature), energy source (solar energy on a sunny day), numbers of hours of occupation etc. Where needed BearingPoint provides additionally an analytics solution.

Abbreviations

  • IoT – Internet of Things
  • LoRa – Long Range Wide Area Network
  • LTE – Long Term Evolution (standard for mobile communication)
  • M2M – Machine to Machine
  • MNO – Mobile Network Operator
  • NB – Narrow Band

1Gartner ID: G00345418 "Emerging Technology Analysis: NB-IoT", Dec.2017, gartner.com
21nce.com - seen in Nov 2018 (plan includes multi-punch SIM, and 500 MB data consumption)

If you want to get more information about this insight please get in touch with our experts who would be pleased to hear from you.

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