Narrowband IoT standardization soon finalized

A new NB-IoT (Narrowband Internet of Things) standard will get us a radio technology that supports massive deployment of IoT devices. It will meet tough requirements on low device complexity and very low battery consumption, as well as extend the coverage range substantially compared to other 3GPP technologies.

Team 3GPP
Category & Hashtags

Last week, about 40 participants from several companies attended the 3GPP RAN4 meeting in Kista, Sweden with the objective to advance the NB-IoT standard.

The Release-13 work item on Narrowband Internet of Things was approved by the 3GPP standardization organization in September 2015, with the ambition to have the core part of the work item completed and incorporated into Release 13 LTE specifications, due 2016.

In the Ericsson Mobility Report published in November 2015, Ericsson forecasts that we can expect to see another 10 billion connected devices in the coming five years. The majority of those devices might be connected over short-range radio or even cable, but I believe that many of the new devices will really benefit from using a technology that allows them to be connected wherever there is cellular coverage, rather than being hampered by cables or short-range radio technologies.

So the primary objective of NB-IoT is to provide a radio access technology that allows for low device complexity, with low power consumption while still providing an adequate throughput for the connected devices. NB-IoT is set to fulfil the requirements that are essential for many of the IoT deployments we can foresee (Figure 1). The NB-IoT standard is also designed with a number of deployment options that will allow it to operate in combination with other 3GPP technologies, such as GSM, WCDMA or LTE.

Figure 1 The Narrowband Internet of Things radio technology will open up for many applications where wide area connectivity is essential.

Figure 1 The Narrowband Internet of Things radio technology will open up for many applications where wide area connectivity is essential.

To meet these requirements, the NB-IoT is being standardized with a channel bandwidth of 180 kHz in both uplink and downlink. This corresponds to the carrier spacing of the LTE resource block. The use of extended DRX cycles, half-duplex FDD (HD-FDD) operation and single receiver antenna in the wireless device lead to substantial reductions in both power and cost. The NB-IoT also has three modes of deployment, namely: standalone operation, guard band operation and in-band operation. In the ‘in-band’ deployment mode, the NB-IoT operation takes place within the LTE channel bandwidth (Figure 2).

Figure 2 Operation modes of NB-IoT

Figure 2 Operation modes of NB-IoT

The work item will be completed in June 2016. In order to ensure timely completion, a 3GPP meeting of the RAN4 working group was hosted by Ericsson at our Headquarters in Kista, Sweden, May 3-4, 2016. The aim of the 3GPP standardization meeting was to progress the work on core requirements for NB IoT, including requirements on the user equipment’s (UE) radio transmission and reception, the base station’s radio transmission and reception, as well as radio resource management including the UE mobility.

For two full days, we discussed all the core requirements and several contributions in different areas, and we approved them in the main meeting session. We also had the opportunity for extensive offline discussions and parallel sessions covering all the three main areas on mobile equipment (UE), Base Stations and Radio Resource Management requirements. Thanks to the relentless efforts of the delegates, we were able to make remarkable progress and most of the open issues were resolved by the end of the meeting. This has clearly paved the way for completing the core work item in the forthcoming 3GPP working group meetings in Nanjing, China, May 24-28, and the formal closing of the work item in the 3GPP RAN plenary in June.

Muhammad Kazmi
Master Researcher, Ericsson Research.

Ali Behravan
Senior Researcher, Ericsson Research.

The Ericsson Blog

Like what you’re reading? Please sign up for email updates on your favorite topics.

Subscribe now

At the Ericsson Blog, we provide insight to make complex ideas on technology, innovation and business simple.