NB-IoT and LTE-M

The IoT (Internet of things) is transforming and redefining all industries and markets. According to HIS (Information Handling Services), the IoT marketplace is expected to grow to quantities of connected devices over time. These devices need Low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN) for data communication. In UAE (United Arab Emirates), the NB-IoT (Narrowband IoT) and LTE-M (Long Term Evolution Category M1) is becoming popular as these networks already are provisioned because of the telecom providers.

Today, LPWAN has cellular (licensed band) and non-cellular (unlicensed) technologies. Under the cellular category we now have NB-IoT and LTE-M plus in unlicensed, the most popular categories are LoRa (Long Range) and SigFox (IoT Technology company and yes it uses the SigFox protocol). LoRa and SigFox need communication gateway which aggregate IoT sensor data for the IoT platform through their unique private networks.

NB-IoT and LTE-M do not require communication gateways thus it is affordable. These sensors communicate directly over the nearest base station from the telecom provider thus to their Cloud IoT platform. They both delivers cheap, low power and extended coverage with low data transmission capabilities. In UAE, they already have the life insurance policy and ideally it seems sensible to use either of those as the communication enabler. Also remember that both are component of 5G journey and may coexist with 5G network. So, industries and customers can fully use them for IoT connectivity options. However, with respect to the use cases and application scenarios, both – NB-IoT or LTE-M has to be chosen.

Some of NB-IoT use cases are Smart City, Smart Parking, Smart Metering, Street Lighting, Home Automation, Building Automation, Smart Agriculture, etc. The key requirements allow me to share periodic transmission of small packets of information and longer life cycle of battery. These sensors count on 4G coverage, to make sure they work anywhere its keep is coverage – even indoors. Moreover, for that above use cases, the IoT sensors are stationary, the network latency is between 1.five to ten seconds and amount of web data being transmitted (peak data rate a lot less than 100 kbps) is extremely less. The uplink/downlink speed is 27.2 / 62.5 kbps. The battery power consumption is the most suitable at small data rate and will achieve life cycle of battery up to several years. The NB-IoT uses narrowband, therefore it allows enhanced indoor and underground penetration and overall reach. So, a latency-insensitive sensor could be positioned in hard-to-reach areas which don’t require high throughput or frequent reporting – idle to use cases like pipe-line monitoring, waste bin monitoring, man hole monitoring, etc.

For LTE-M, making use cases scenarios are – mobility, real-time data communication (one example is emergency alarm data, voice, tracking) and mission-critical applications. Some use cases are Smart Transportation, Wearables, Smart Asset Tracking, Home Security, Patient Monitoring, etc. The LTE-M latency is between 50 to 100 milli seconds and peak data minute rates are 384 kbps. The uplink/downlink speed is around 1 Mbps. LTE-M is idle when you wish to meet buyer experience requirement for static and mobility scenarios. It also allows more data throughput in comparison to NB-IOT.

To recapitulate, the IoT application use cases will define which communication enabler fits best depending on multiple parameters like existing telecom networks (with NB-IOT and LTE-M), standalone networks (LoRa and SigFox), static and/or mobility requirements, latency, data transmission rate, power consumption, battery, components like gateways, controllers and lastly the cost. As UAE already provides the NB-IoT communication network, most on the IoT projects in UAE will be depending on NB-IoT LPWAN mainly because it will improve deployments plus more cost-effective regarding capex and low operational cost. With flexible deployment as well since the possibility to implement OTA (over-the-air) firmware upgrades, many telecommunication operators throughout the world has deployed NB-IoT and LTE-M. According to a new paper conducted by Grand View Research, Inc the narrowband-IoT market size is likely to reach USD 6,020 million by 2025, registering a CAGR of 34.9% from 2019 to 2025. NB-IoT is booming.