Narrowband Internet of things (NB-IoT) is a low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) radio technology standard developed by 3GPP for cellular devices and services. The specification was frozen in 3GPP Release 13 (LTE Advanced Pro), in June 2016. Other 3GPP IoT technologies include eMTC (enhanced Machine-Type Communication) and EC-GSM-IoT.
NB-IoT focuses specifically on indoor coverage, low cost, long battery life, and high connection density. NB-IoT uses a subset of the LTE standard, but limits the bandwidth to a single narrow-band of 200kHz. It uses OFDM modulation for downlink communication and SC-FDMA for uplink communications. IoT applications which require more frequent communications will be better served by NB-IoT, which has no duty cycle limitations operating on the licensed spectrum.
In March 2019, the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) announced that over 100 operators had either NB-IoT or LTE-M networks. This number had risen to 142 deployed/launched networks by September 2019.
13GPP LPWAN standards
3Devices and modules
3GPP LPWAN standards
LTE Cat 1LTE Cat 1 bisLTE-MNB-IoTEC-GSM-IoTLC-LTE/MTCeeMTCLTE Cat 0LTE Cat M1LTE Cat M2non-BLLTE Cat NB1LTE Cat NB23GPP ReleaseRelease 8Release 13Release 12Release 13Release 14Release 14Release 13Release 14Release 13Downlink Peak Rate10 Mbit/s10 Mbit/s1 Mbit/s1 Mbit/s~4 Mbit/s~4 Mbit/s26 kbit/s127 kbit/s474 kbit/s (EDGE)
2 Mbit/s (EGPRS2B)
Uplink Peak Rate5 Mbit/s5 Mbit/s1 Mbit/s1 Mbit/s~7 Mbit/s~7 Mbit/s66 kbit/s (multi-tone)
16.9 kbit/s (single-tone)
159 kbit/s474 kbit/s (EDGE)
2 Mbit/s (EGPRS2B)
Latency50–100 msnot deployed10–15 ms1.6–10 s700 ms – 2 sNumber of Antennas211111111–2Duplex ModeFull DuplexFull or Half DuplexFull or Half DuplexFull or Half DuplexFull or Half DuplexHalf DuplexHalf DuplexHalf DuplexDevice Receive Bandwidth1.4–20 MHz1.4–20 MHz1.4 MHz5 MHz5 MHz180 kHz180 kHz200 kHzReceiver Chains2 (MIMO)1 (SISO)1 (SISO)1 (SISO)1 (SISO)1 (SISO)1 (SISO)1–2Device Transmit Power23 dBm23 dBm23 dBm20 / 23 dBm20 / 23 dBm20 / 23 dBm20 / 23 dBm14 / 20 / 23 dBm23 / 33 dBm
As of March 2019 GSA identified:
149 operators in 69 countries investing in one or both of the NB-IoT and LTE-M network technologies
104 of those operators in 53 countries had deployed/launched at least one of the NB-IoT or LTE-M technologies of those, 20 operators in 19 countries had deployed/launched both NB-IoT and LTE-M
22 countries are now home to deployed/launched NB-IoT and LTE-M networks
29 countries are home to deployed/launched NB-IoT networks only
Two countries are home to deployed/launched LTE-M networks only
141 operators in 69 countries investing in NB-IoT networks; 90 of those operators in 51 countries had deployed/launched their networks
60 operators in 35 countries investing in LTE-M networks; 34 of those operators in 24 countries had deployed/launched their networks
Devices and modules
The 3GPP-compliant LPWA device ecosystem continues to grow. In April 2019, GSA identified 210 devices supporting either Cat-NB1/NB-2 or Cat-M1 – more than double the number in its GAMBoD database at the end of March 2018. This figure had risen a further 50% by September 2019, with a total of 303 devices identified as supporting either Cat-M1, Cat-NB1 (NB-IoT) or Cat-NB2. Of these, 230 devices support Cat-NB1 (including known variants) and 198 devices support Cat-M1 (including known variants). The split of devices (as of September 2019) was 60.4% modules, 25.4% asset trackers, and 5.6% routers, with data loggers, femtocells, smart-home devices, and smart watches, USB modems, and vehicle on-board units (OBUs), making up the balance.
In 2018 first NB-IoT data loggers are other certified devices started to appear. For example ThingsLog released their first CE certified single channel NB-IoT data logger on Tindie in late 2018.
To integrate NB-IoT into a maker board for IoT developments, SODAQ, a Dutch IoT hardware and software engineering company, crowdfunded an NB-IoT shield on Kickstarter. They then went on to partner with module manufacturer u-blox to create maker boards with NB-IoT and LTE-M integrated.