Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is increasingly gaining traction with mobile operators across the globe. Recently operators from the U.S. to Europe and Australia have started to conduct connectivity and device trials, form partnerships, and launch their own NB-IoT networks.
NB-IoT is a low-power, wide-area technology that was established in June 2016 and is considered part of the 3GPP standard. The technology is designed for IoT applications and devices that require low cost, long battery life, extended coverage, and high capacity. As part of its involvement in the 3GPP standards, NB-IoT will evolve as part of 5G specifications.
Today, Ericsson and Australian operator Telstra completed a long-range NB-IoT data connection 100 kilometers from a Telstra base station. This extends the 3GPP standards-based limit from 40 kilometers entirely through software upgrades, with no changes made to the NB-IoT devices.
Telstra deployed NB-IoT in January of this year but this new capability will increase the operator’s NB-IoT coverage to more than three and a half million square kilometers.
Vodafone also extended its NB-IoT network this month, doubling the number of cell sites that support the technology. Each Vodafone NB-IoT network can support up to 50,000 devices in a single cell. The devices can be deployed for up to ten years on one charge. Vodafone claims to have 74 million global IoT connections, citing strong enterprise demand as the reason for continued expansion.
The expansion densified Vodafone’s existing NB-IoT networks in the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Australia, South Africa, Spain, and Turkey. It launched new networks in the U.K., Romania, and Hungary.
Vodafone has worked with other operators on NB-IoT, including Deutsche Telekom (DT). DT said in January that its NB-IoT network is available in eight European markets. This includes availability in over 600 towns and cities in Germany. It also said at the time that over 200 companies were trialing the NB-IoT technology.
T-Mobile, DT’s U.S. subsidiary, in July 2018 launched the first nationwide NB-IoT network in the U.S. It used equipment from Nokia, Ericsson, and Qualcomm. T-Mobile deployed the network in guard bands — the unused portion of wireless spectrum between licensed radio bands. Also this year, the operator announced its NB-IoT rate plan of $6 per year for up to 12 megabytes of data per device. Under the plan, NB-IoT modules would be available for $5 a module.
While T-Mobile launched the first U.S. NB-IoT network, both Verizon and AT&T have announced plans to launch their own nationwide networks. Verizon said in February that it would launch its nationwide NB-IoT network this year. In testing NB-IoT data sessions, Verizon has used Ericsson’s IoT software.
AT&T has said its own NB-IoT network will launch in the U.S. in early 2019 and will expand it to Mexico by year-end. In June 2018, AT&T told SDxCentral that it was considering also deploying the NB-IoT in the guard band, but is also evaluating the regular spectrum band.