Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is the most notable leap in IoT technologies, presented by 3GPP Release 13 specification. While EC-GSM-IoT offers a simple path to cellular IoT, NB-IoT on the other hand is the real deal, in terms of IoT.
NB-IoT offers a standard technology reusing many elements of the LTE standard, while having a primary focus on IoT-related requirements and features.
NB-IoT offers interesting options in terms of spectrum, as it is possible to deploy it within the existing LTE bands (in band deployment alongside LTE), or one can use the LTE guard bands for standalone deployments that maintain the LTE spectrum for LTE services.
NB-IoT is designed for extended coverage, 10 years of battery life (for certain predefined duty cycles), limited data rates, not-so-low latency (going hand-in-hand with relatively low data rates, as it is a narrowband system), with very simple architectural definitions, and altogether with a cost baseline below that of LTE Cat M1. This offers a connectivity potential of over 50.000 devices per cell.
Exploring NB-IoT further, one finds a Power Saving Mode and extended Discontinuous Reception (PSM and eDRX) for optimized power consumption. The IoT device complexity in NB-IoT is lower than in other GSM devices, due to simplified synchronization and signaling procedures. The uplink capacity for users in bad coverage areas has been improved through single tone transmissions, instead of multitoned. NB-IoT also provides support for positioning, multicast capabilities and mobility.
The capabilities and its fitness for purpose make NB-IoT the first cellular IoT technology that will see truly massive deployments. The chipset manufacturers are showing the lead in that sense, with many major chipset vendors already presenting NB-IoT chipsets. The scene is now set for true IoT growth.