Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) technology is gaining traction in the United States and Europe thanks to the efforts of Deutsche Telekom (DT) and its U.S. subsidiary T-Mobile. DT announced in a blog post that its NB-IoT network is live in eight European markets with a goal of having many countries outfitted with nationwide coverage by year-end.
Likewise, in the U.S., T-Mobile earlier this year said that it expects to have NB-IoT live nationwide by mid-year. The operator launched its first NB-IoT market in October 2017 in Las Vegas after successfully testing the technology there last summer.
NB-IoT is a 3GPP standards-based low-power wide area (LPWA) technology that uses licensed spectrum and can coexist alongside 3G and 4G cellular networks. NB-IoT is different from LTE CAT-M (also known at LTE-M) IoT technology used by Verizon and AT&T because NB-IoT is a separate network and not part of the operator’s existing LTE network. Interestingly, T-Mobile has said that it will also deploy a nationwide CAT-M network after its NB-IoT network is complete.
In the U.S., T-Mobile competitors AT&T and Verizon already have nationwide CAT-M networks. Last March Verizon launched its nationwide network and said it covered 2.4 million square miles. Likewise, AT&T said its CAT-M network was available nationwide by mid-2017.
In Europe, DT said that its NB-IoT network is available in about 600 towns and cities in Germany and that more than 200 companies are trialing the technology. In the Netherlands, DT has a nationwide NB-IoT network, and in Austria it has one major city covered but said it will have a nationwide network in that country by third quarter. Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Greece already have many cities outfitted with NB-IoT, and DT plans to have nationwide coverage by year-end.
To help propel the technology, DT has established a joint research and development lab, called WARP NB-IoT, that offers startups access to the technology and technical support for prototyping devices and products.
The operator also has a European Smart Solutions Center in Budapest that is focused on developing NB-IoT smart city solutions.
The GSMA also has formed an NB-IoT Forum to help propel widespread adoption of the technology. The NB-IoT Forum is working on network interoperability and creating a supply chain for products.
Ericsson’s 2017 Mobility Report that was released in November estimates there will be 20 billion connected IoT devices by 2023 and that cellular connections (that includes CAT-M and NB-IoT) will account for 18 billion of those connections.