NB-IoT explained: a complete guide to Narrowband-IoT


NB-IoT (Narrowband-IoT) is a narrowband radio technology for M2M and Internet of Things (IoT) devices and applications requiring wireless transmission over a more extended range at a relatively low cost and using little power for long battery lives.

In NB-IoT applications, typically small data volume amounts need to be infrequently transmitted. NB-IoT became a standard for this type of wireless communications in 2016, and in recent years mobile operators have been, and many still are deploying network capabilities enabling narrowband-IoT coverage for their customers.

NB-IoT is, among others, also referred to as LTE Cat-NB. Other terms such as LTE Cat-NB1 and Cat N1 apply to the NB-IoT specification released in 2016. Today, there are also Cat N2 or Cat NB2 devices that use the enhanced NB-IoT specifications that came later and are currently on the road towards commercialization.

NB-IoT falls under the category of LPWA network standards and protocols (LPWAN). That’s the name used for many types of wireless IoT communication standards in the IoT stack that enable to use devices with batteries for transmission over a wide area (wide area network or WAN, in this case WWAN or wireless WAN) with relatively low power (hence the ‘LP’) for infrequent, mainly small data volume, transmissions.

IoT applications that require more frequent communications will be better served by NB-IoT, which has no duty cycle limitations operating on the licensed spectrum (ABI Research)

According to ABI Research, by 2026, NB-IoT and LTE-M will capture over 60% of the 3.6 billion LPWA network connections. Of the remaining 40% share, LoRa and Sigfox will account for over 80% of the non-cellular LPWA network connections.