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What is NB-IoT ?

Good morning IoT !
Today we will explain what is NB-IoT

NarrowBand-Interne of Things or NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) communication standard, specially designed for the Internet of Things developed by 3GPP (Third Generation Partnership Project, the organization behind the standardization of cellular networks).

This standard allows devices to communicate large volumes of data over very long distances with very high latency. It enables a wide range of new IoT devices and services.

We will take a look at this new standard in detail in order to understand his advantages.

What is NB-IoT ?

NB-IoT or Narrowband IoT is a low power and long range (LPWAN) technology validated in June 2016.

NB‑IoT was first introduced as LTE Cat NB1 in the 3GPP Release 13 standard that also defined LTE‑M (LTE Cat M1) – both are LPWA technologies in the licensed spectrum. With 3GPP Release 14, the LTE Cat NB2 standard has been set.

NB-IoT is meant to be used to send and receive small amounts of data (a few tens or hundreds of bytes per day). Unlike LTE-M, it is not based on the IP protocol, but uses a message-based protocol. It has the advantage of offering a faster modulation rate than LoRa or Sigfox. It can therefore exchange a larger amount of data at a lower rate. LTE-M, on the other hand, is more suitable for applications that require a higher bandwidth.

NB-IoT is a technology that can exist either: “In band” replacing LTE block resources, “guard band” used in the guard band at the edge of LTE blocks and “standalone” on an independent 200 kHz carrier.

Technically NB-IoT therefore uses the 200kHz frequency band and OFDM modulation for incoming communications and SC-FDMA for outgoing communications. Due to its design, response times in the millisecond range are not expected.

NB-IoT allows a maximum theoretical data rate of 62.5 kbit/s in UL and 25.5 kbit/s in DL in R13 using Cat-N1 modules using 200 KHz bandwidth and 158.5 kbit/s in UL and 127 kbit/s in DL in R14 using Cat-N2 modules with a latency of less than about 10 seconds.

The latency will depend on the quality of the communication chip, the network, the reception quality and the distance to the nearest antenna.

The advantages of NB-IoT

This new technology brings a number of advantages in relation to its field of use.

Simplified deployment into existing cellular network architecture

The Nb-IoT builds on existing LTE networks, from which it inherits widely proven mechanisms, such as on the one hand the security of communications and equipment, and on the other hand the possibility of international mobility, thanks to roaming.

Low consumption

Optimized for the infrequent transmission of small amounts of data, NB-IoT enables very low power IoT applications, with a theoretical battery life up to 10 years.

NB-IoT technology, specified by the GSMA, uses several typical LPWAN features to save energy, such as Power Saving Mode (PSM).


NB-IoT offers a reliable connectivity, ratified by the 3GPP. Using existing and licensed networks, operators are already in charge of their quality of service. Thus, they are able to guarantee a sufficient QoS (Quality Of Service).

Lower component cost

The simplicity of the standard on which this technology is based makes it possible to create inexpensive communication chips. Indeed, a chip that only supports NB-IoT is cheaper to produce.

Extended coverage

Relying on the existing mobile network infrastructure already in place, Nb-IoT benefits from the extent of existing LTE coverage.

As it’s based on the current LTE network, this mode of communication is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.

Use cases

This standard has been designed for many applications and use cases in the IoT and IIoT (Industrial Internet Of Things) domain. Among others, we find:

Smart metering

NB‑IoT is well suited for monitoring gas and water meters, via regular and small data transmissions. NB‑IoT has excellent coverage and penetration to address this issue.

Besides, based on the current LTE network, it enables to equip meters even in difficult locations such as in the deep underground.

Smart cities

NB‑IoT can help cities to face different challenges such as control street lighting, waste management in order to determine when waste bins need emptying, identify free parking spaces, monitor environmental conditions, and survey the condition of roads.

Smart buildings

The use cases for smart building are extremely varied. They aim to facilitate the management and maintenance of the building from a technical point of view but also from a comfort point of view. It possible to send alerts about building maintenance issues and perform automated tasks, such as light and heat control. NB‑IoT can also act as the backup for the building broadband connection. Some security solutions may even be used.

Smart Industry

NB-IoT can help to solve supply chain issues. It can increase efficiency and effectiveness right across industry, improving manufacturing and streamlining logistics. Tracking of assets can help reduce wastage and improve efficiency with a significant R.O.I.
Predictive maintenance is also a strong challenge, being able to anticipate before equipment fails. NB-IoT provides solutions for this type of problem in the smart industry.


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