The CIO's guide to NO-IoT. Source: Shutterstock

The CIO’s guide to NO-IoT. Source: Shutterstock

What is NB-IoT and how can the technology help businesses today?

EXPERTS know that the internet of things (IoT) has a lot of potential. However, most were expecting the arrival of 5G to democratize IoT and accelerate its growth.

With delays in 5G being announced as a result of the growing tensions among regulators and equipment manufacturers, it might be a good idea for industries that could really benefit from IoT to find alternative solutions — at least for the short-term.

The frontrunner among alternative ideas is Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), with communications between devices facilitated by low-power wide area networks (LPWAN). The other alternative is LTE-M.

NB-IoT is something that large enterprises, as well as some mid-sized organizations, might find useful since it operates independently in the unused 200-kHZ band previously allocated to GSM technology, leveraging LTE base stations allocating a resource block to NB-IoT operations.

Further, according to a 3GPP presentation, NB-IoT implementations cost even less than LTE-M does, offers extended coverage and long battery life (10 years approximately), and is able to support an enormous number of devices.

Truth be told, there’s already a lot of progress being made on NB-IoT among telecom operators, equipment manufacturers, and industry leaders.

As at the end of March 2019, the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) identified that 149 operators in 69 countries investing in one or both of the NB-IoT and LTE-M network technologies and that a total of 22 countries are now home to deployed/launched NB-IoT and LTE-M networks.

Naturally, with NB-IoT being the frontrunner, 28 countries are home to deployed/launched NB-IoT networks, and only two countries are home to deployed/launched LTE-M networks.

One-hundred-and-forty operators in 69 countries told the GSA that they’re investing in NB-IoT networks, of which 88 operators in 50 countries had deployed/launched their networks.

In comparison, 60 operators in 35 countries investing in LTE-M networks, of which 34 operators in 24 countries had deployed/launched their network.

“The global momentum behind LPWAN deployments is a testament to the revenue opportunities which operators are racing to win and monetize in a diverse range of new IoT applications,” commented GSA President Joe Barrett.

“Significantly, it can also be seen as a precursor to operators replacing legacy machine to machine (M2M) services such as GPRS-based trackers and preparing the ground for the eventual switch-off of their 2G networks.”

How can companies make use of NB-IoT right now?

Anybody that needs IoT on an industrial scale can benefit from NB-IoT provided telecom operators or infrastructure providers in their region support it.

Smart metering, facility management services, perimeter alarms for commercial properties, wearable efficiency trackers for workers, smart cities, and connected industrial appliances are some examples of how organizations can benefit from NB-IoT.

Truth be told, businesses expecting a big competitive advantage as a result of IoT should stop waiting for 5G and cellular IoT.

Instead, they should get started with NB-IoT.

Some experts even believe the technology will be cheaper even when 5G pops up — which is going to take more time considering factories (where IoT is needed) is often in remote areas — and 5G requires network density to deliver on expectations.

The reality is that companies that build part of their IoT infrastructure with NB-IoT could use 5G at a later date to support other IoT applications. It’s something to think about given the potential IoT really has.