NB-IoT Standards Are Final: Now What?

With the standards in place, it's time for the industry to deliver on the promise of this low-power wide-area networking technology.
By Andrew Morawski
Aug 23, 2016

The Internet of Things conjures a vision of a totally connected world—one in which data and sensors transform everything from transportation to energy management. This vision is already becoming a reality thanks to low-cost networking technology that can connect all types of objects—and, more importantly, thanks to standards that support ecosystems in which all applications, services and systems can work together.

This is where Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) comes in. NB-IoT is a type of low-power wide-area (LPWA) networking technology, in which small amounts of data are transmitted over long distances via cellular devices with low power requirements and a long battery life. This makes it ideal for functions ranging from sensor monitoring to asset tracking in remote or hard-to-reach places, giving it the potential to connect millions of objects, including water meters, trash cans, parking spots and other important resources. The foundation required to achieve this reality is being laid through the acceptance of standardization and driven through ecosystem development.

Standards: The Foundation for Innovation
In June 2016, telecommunications standards body 3GPP finalized the specifications for NB-IoT technology. While this may seem like an administrative point, it's an important step forward in the technology's development. The standardized technology can be deployed across networks, using three modes of operation:

In-band operation—dynamically uses physical resource blocks within a 4G LTE service provider
Guard band operation—leverages the unused spectrum within the 4G LTE service provider guard band
Standalone operation—allows for deployment in dedicated spectrum, such as the re-farmed GSM and UMTS frequency channels, providing unparalleled flexibility of deployment

The standard will act as a common foundation for developers and engineers to design NB-IoT applications, services and systems that work together. Stakeholders already testing the technology can now accelerate their development programs with confidence. As trials transition to standardized technology, the industry can expect to see the pace of development accelerate. And, with the building blocks of the technology now firmly in place, it's important for the industry to focus on building and supporting the NB-IoT ecosystem.

Developing the NB-IoT Ecosystem
Now that standards have been set forth, it's time for the industry to deliver on the promise of NB-IoT technology. As many organizations prepare for widespread NB-IoT deployment, they must work with the industry to nurture a broad ecosystem of developers and engineers who will push the technology's boundaries, and bring new services to market that can transform lives and businesses for the better.

One example is the GSMA NB-IoT Forum, an industry forum aimed at accelerating the ecosystem and widespread adoption around NB-IoT. Major industry players, including Vodafone, China Mobile, Ericsson, Intel, Nokia and Qualcomm, have come together with the goal of accelerating the ecosystem around NB-IoT technology. These leaders are working to bring together all of the industry and ecosystem partners in a way that will usher NB-IoT solutions to the market as quickly as possible. Through collaboration between all NB-IoT industry leaders, the group can work toward building a strong end-to-end industry chain for NB-IoT.

Access to facilities where products can be developed and tested is also a vital element of any successful ecosystem. The NB-IoT open labs program offers an environment in which developers can exchange ideas, explore the technology's capabilities, test how their services or applications will perform in live environments and get support with more administrative tasks, such as compliance certification. They are provided with vital resources, including live test networks, connectivity models and software development kits. Several labs are set to open across Europe, including a second lab in partnership with Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia in Germany.

With standards reached, NB-IoT technology is well on its way to creating the first real wave of the Internet of Things, connecting vital everyday "things" like gas meters, water gauges or smoke detectors that make a true difference in society. Now, the focus must turn to developing a rich ecosystem that takes advantage of NB-IoT connectivity to create all-new business models. With the collaboration of leaders across the industry, and with the talents of developers, we can bring NB-IoT solutions to the market by 2017, and ensure future innovation with the technology.

Andrew Morawski is the head of IoT for Vodafone Americas, a business arm of global telecommunications firm Vodafone. He is responsible for leading Vodafone's IoT sales, strategy and operational initiatives in North and South America. Andrew's key area of focus for the region is the application of IoT technologies that enable creative new business models to drive growth in both established and emerging markets.

  • Previous Page
  • 1
  • Next Page
Simply enter a question for our experts.
Sign up for the RFID Journal Newsletter
We will never sell or share your information
RFID Journal LIVE! RFID in Health Care LIVE! LatAm LIVE! Brasil LIVE! Europe RFID Connect Virtual Events RFID Journal Awards Webinars Presentations