Why is Nb-IoT a good connectivity alternative to traditional mobile networks?
2G and 3G networks are historically very good choices for IoT and M2M use cases, as they generally do not require high bandwidth (such as video streaming) and data usage is generally low (~ 3 MB/month per SIM card) overall in 2G case.
Since 2G and 3G networks have been in commercial use for more than 25 years, the coverage area is generally larger than the LTE technology that has been in use for “only” 10 years. As a result, 2G and 3G have become common choices among customers, especially for IoT and M2M applications.
In the IoT market, the majority of objects are with 2G and 3G. However, these days the smartphone market is pushing us more and more towards 4G/LTE network solutions and maintaining support for these old 2G and 3G networks is starting to cost operators money. Our customers need to be prepared for these changes and our role is to guide them in choosing the best network for their IOT needs.
Today, we propose to focus on a future alternative, the NB-IoT linked with the 5G deployment.
What is NB-IoT?
NB-IoT (NB for narrow band) is a cellular technology of LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) type. IP (Internet Protocol), it allows objects to connect to the Internet by connecting directly to the operators’ relay antennas, thus avoiding the installation of gateways that are often costly for the customer. NB-Iot uses a very narrow bandwidth of 200kHz, OFDM modulation for incoming communications and SC-FDMA for outgoing communications. Because of this narrow bandwidth, the theoretical data rates that can be achieved on this network are low and in the order of 20 to 250 kbit/s in half duplex (transmission and reception possible, but not at the same time).
Use of existing mobile networks
One of the many advantages of NB-Iot is the ease with which it can be deployed. It can be deployed on any available frequency spectrum as long as there is at least 200 kHz of available bandwidth. This advantage allows it to be easily used on the LTE network for example. Indeed, the LTE network has frequency spectrums that are not used and that allow operators to install or coexist the NB-Iot easily.
A network with an international dimension
NB-IoT is a network that has inherited many features and mechanisms from the networks we know today, including the option of roaming.
This possibility allows NB-IoT and operators to pool their networks and provide an international dimension to this network. The illustration below shows that NB-IoT is widely supported in Europe and the United States.
A low-cost technology
The simplicity of the NB-IoT protocol has allowed chip manufacturers to create low-cost radio chips. The NB-IoT allows access to the functionalities of cellular networks at very low prices.
The NB-IoT has proven to be an excellent alternative, because it has been able to gather all the advantages that we know with mobile networks while remaining a network adapted to the Internet of Things of tomorrow. In this sense, it is a network halfway between LPWAN and LTE.
- Low power consumption (object on battery up to 10 years and more)
- Suitable for high sensor densities (5G ready)
- It falls into the LPWAN category with distances up to 50 km (rural environment)
- It has an excellent penetration rate in buildings
- Modules are low-cost (<10€) compared to 2G and 3G modem
The choice of 2G and 3G network is no longer an option that is considered viable, especially if your object is intended to have a life span beyond 10 years. NB-IoT clearly meets the needs of IoT. Where the 2G and 3G option was possible for your projects, the NB-IoT option is now a much cheaper and more suitable alternative.
As always, the choice of network architecture must be established according to the use case. There are many other powerful networks such as SigFox and Lora that can sometimes be better suited.
At DiproTech, our hardware and consulting team for IoT projects, as experts in the development of connected solutions in Spain, we have a thorough knowledge of these different networks and solutions. The choice of connectivity is a decisive step in the life of your object, and it is important to be accompanied. DiproTech and thethings.iO through their teams of experts are here to guide you and advise you on the best solutions.
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