NB-IoT and Massive IoT


In case LPWAN is new to you, or when you see someone claim that it is new, this isn’t because it effectively is a new wireless IoT communications category at all but because, after many years of delay which are mainly related to different technologies being proposed and the business choices of the mobile industry the cellular LPWA networks are here in many regions.

LPWAN is sometimes also categorized under the term, Massive IoT, another industry term that just means those ‘billions’ of devices that typically transmit small data volume amounts, often sent at intervals (so no constant transmission but now and then) and with the need for long battery lives as with NB-IoT and others.

Before talking specifications, use cases, developments, and more, a few words on the specifications and standardization that might help understand some details in case you’re interested. The standardization body of the mobile (cellular) industry, known as 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), works with numbered ‘releases’ in which specifications of new standards and enhancements are frozen at a specific moment in time. These releases cover several mobile technologies members (the mobile industry) have worked on.

· The specifications of NB-IoT were frozen in ‘release 13’: LTE Cat-NB1.

· With release 14, the earlier mentioned enhanced specifications were added: LTE Cat-NB2 (and far more acronyms for the same).

· Power-saving modes that can be used in the standards go back to a release earlier.

Important before we start, even if it may be obvious: when you want to know which LPWAN or, broader, communication standards for IoT fit your needs best and if NB-IoT is right for your project, don’t just look at features and technical specifications. Also, beware of the sources of the information you seek as commercial interests nowadays are high.

While early deployments have so far been focused on traditional verticals such as smart metering, we expect to see NB-IoT being integrated into a broader set of products in 2019–2020, including home appliances, door locks and smoke detectors (Fredrik Stalbrand, Senior Analyst, Berg Insight)

At all times, contact a trusted partner for the region(s) you want to cover with your application. Features are often expressed in theoretical possibilities and maxima, not considering the ways your application is set up.

This is particularly so with speeds and battery lives (there are several ways to save energy, but some might not fit your case). Connectivity also fits in a broader picture and, finally, the reliability, quality, and management of the network as well as the roadmap of your potential partner and their ecosystem of partners matter. In fact, chance is high you already work with a partner in the ecosystem of operators or connectivity providers for other projects. The business case and your project’s success are essential.

With this said, some characteristics of NB-IoT compared to LTE-M and other LPWA network options.