There is a lot of excitement and buzz about the Internet of Things (IoT) — particularly the economical and societal benefits that will emerge as we connect everyone and everything around us.
Cellular technologies, like 4G LTE, are playing an increasingly important role in delivering reliable, secure, interoperable communications with ubiquitous coverage for applications such as smart cities, connected industrial, mobile health, and much more. Meeting the wide variation of requirements across these IoT applications requires new technology innovations. And earlier this month, the cellular ecosystem took an important step in this direction.
At a recent plenary meeting in South Korea, 3GPP completed the standardization of NB-IoT (Narrowband-IoT), a new LTE-based narrowband technology optimized for IoT.
This new technology, along with the previously completed eMTC (enhanced Machine-Type-Communications) technology, are part of Release 13 of the global 3GPP standard. Together, they deliver enhancements in both the LTE air interface and network that will bring new levels of efficiency for low-throughput, delay-tolerant communications common in many IoT use cases. They also introduce two new LTE IoT device categories (Cat-M1 and Cat-NB1) that are part of a unified, scalable LTE IoT platform.
Scalable LTE IoT Platform
NB-IoT and eMTC bring many enhancements and optimizations to LTE that will reduce IoT device complexity, enable multi-year battery life, and provide deeper coverage to reach challenging locations such as deep inside buildings. The new technologies also can leverage existing LTE infrastructure and spectrum, coexisting with today’s mobile broadband services. Check out our LTE IoT video to get a quick download on these new technologies.
Now that the 3GPP standardization on these new narrowband LTE IoT technologies is complete, the mobile industry is progressing toward commercialization of these new technologies driven by a high level of interest from the entire ecosystem. These new narrowband LTE IoT technologies provide a superior solution to emerging non-3GPP technologies for IoT and Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) applications. The benefits include:
- Ubiquitous coverage: Leverage existing LTE networks (~500 networks) in 160+ countries
- Scalability: Part of a unified platform that can scale from 10s of kbps to Gigabit-Class LTE
- Coexistence: Compatible with existing LTE networks, spectrum, and services
- Managed quality of service (QoS): Utilize licensed spectrum for guaranteed resource allocation
- End-to-end security: Established/trusted security and authentication features
Beyond these benefits, 3GPP is backed by a mature ecosystem with a rich roadmap to 5G. In fact, NB-IoT will continue to evolve beyond Release 13 with new features, such as support for multicast and positioning, establishing the foundation for Narrowband 5G IoT.
Beyond NB-IoT evolution, 3GPP is also defining a unified, more capable 5G air interface, or 5G New Radio (NR). The development of this specification is now well underway, and it is expected to bring new levels of capability and efficiency not only to the massive IoT (think low-power sensors everywhere), but also enable new mission-critical control services with low-latency, high reliability communications links (think drones and industrial robots).
As we did with 3G and 4G, Qualcomm is leading the world to 5G. And this is certainly exemplified in the Internet of Things, starting with LTE IoT technologies today. We are leading the way with broad ecosystem adoption of the Qualcomm MDM9x07 cost-optimized LTE IoT modems from Qualcomm Technologies, we were a main contributor to the new Release 13 narrowband IoT technologies (eMTC, NB-IoT), and we have announced the QTI’s Qualcomm MDM9206 flexible chipset platform with support for Cat-M1 (eMTC) and Cat-NB1 (NB-IoT).
What to learn more? Come see us at Mobile World Congress Shanghai where we will be speaking about and demonstrating the new narrowband IoT technologies. If you cannot attend the show, check out our new LTE IoT website for the latest information and downloads.