Narrowband-IoT: Enabler for the Internet of Things

Just a couple of months ago, the standardization for the new network technology Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) finally happened. Now it’s time to enter the market. To do so as fast and effectively as possible, Deutsche Telekom is developing cutting-edge prototypes at its NB-IoT Prototyping Hub together with selected partners and startups.
  • Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) networks are expected to make a significant contribution to the M2M and IoT ecosystem, with an estimated 27 billion US dollars in service revenue by 2020.[1]
  • LPWA connectivity applications with existing or emerging use cases will account for 70 percent of a total 3.5 billion connections by 2025.[2]
  • The cost of a typical LPWA module is estimated to be between five and 20 dollars, depending on the specific technology. As LPWA network deployments mature, costs per module can drop down to as low as one to two dollars in volume quantities.[3]

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the hottest current IT trends. Key enabling technologies are Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) networks, among them Narrowband-IoT. Why? Because it allows “simple things” – devices which send only small amounts of data – to be connected over a wide range, and the IoT is largely made up of them. Its great potential as a networking standard is emphasized by the prognosis of Analysys Mason experts, who anticipate that the number of LPWA connections will increase from 50 million today to over 3 billion by 2023.
To tap this enormous growth, Deutsche Telekom has initiated a new program: the NB-IoT Prototyping Hub. “With this program, we want to accelerate the market introduction and advance the ecosystem surrounding the NB-IoT technology together with experts, partners, and startups,” says Alexander Lautz, Senior Vice President M2M at Deutsche Telekom. But in fact, what is Narrowband-IoT?

Small, but effective: Narrowband-IoT
There are now hundreds of diverse Internet of Things applications available. Their variety quite often requires an equally diverse selection of networks. For example, critical machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, such as the remote control of machines, works best with LTE, or the soon-to-come 5G wireless standard. For networking over short distances, such as interconnecting computers or tablets at home, a LAN or WiFi connection works just fine. However, what happens if you want to send just a small amount of data, but over a long distance?
The solution to this problem is now NB-IoT. It handles a large number of connections per cell, offers deep indoor penetration with an extra 20 decibels compared to GPRS, and its modules have a battery life of up to 10 years thanks to low energy consumption. Additionally, it costs far less than other M2M/IoT technologies.

On these grounds, NB-IoT is very well suited for applications requiring only low bandwidths, such as intelligent parking systems, smart meters, and waste management. In fact, it makes a lot of IoT solutions possible in these areas, which could not be done before because it would have been simply too expensive and unprofitable.
Unlike other LPWA technologies like LoRa or SIGFOX, Deutsche Telekom operates NB-IoT in a licensed spectrum based on the recent 3GPP standard. Therefore, it can use the already existing, reliable infrastructure. Because of that, analysts predict that NB-IoT will become one of the dominant LPWA networking technologies worldwide.

Pioneer in the Narrowband-IoT market
Deutsche Telekom wants to be ahead of the game concerning the NB-IoT market, and it is doing quite well in this regard: In October 2015, it announced that it had completed the world’s first implementation of pre-standard NB-IoT on commercial network elements by software upgrade only. The Group has also played a leading role in global standardization within the 3GPP and GSMA organizations, which happened last June.

Its latest coup is the launch of the NB-IoT Prototyping Hub. In cooperation with its own IoT experts, partners, startups, as well as current and potential customers, the company wants to develop new products for this new network quickly. In this project, everyone benefits: Deutsche Telekom can position itself as a partner for Narrowband-IoT solutions and business models. It can also ensure that all prototypes comply with the necessary standards by being directly involved in product development. Participating startups also have much to gain: They receive direct access to NB-IoT technology and, along with a starter pack containing the latest hardware and software, they can tap the Group’s extensive expertise. Each startup has a designated mentor at its side. Mentors, startups, and potential customers meet at regular intervals to network, exchange ideas, and discuss their progress. This cooperation helps firms to drastically reduce the time to market (TTM) for their Narrowband-IoT products while also facilitating valuable new connections.

Kick-off already started
We will soon be able to see how well this works, since the project’s kick-off meeting took place at the beginning of this week. In total, 24 startups were invited to the offices of hub:raum in Berlin. hub:raum, Deutsche Telekom’s startup incubator, manages the NB-IoT Prototyping Hub and helps all participants with words, deeds, office space, and a large ecosystem.

[1] LPWA Networks Ecosystem: 2015–2030 – Opportunities, Challenges, Strategies, Industry Verticals & Forecasts, SNS Research
[2] LPWA networks for IoT: worldwide trends and forecasts 2015–2025, Analysys Mason
[3] LPWA Networks Ecosystem: 2015–2030 – Opportunities, Challenges, Strategies, Industry Verticals & Forecasts, SNS Research

Author: Editorial Team
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