The IoT (Internet of things) is transforming and redefining all industries and markets. According to HIS (Information Handling Services), the IoT market is expected to grow to billions of connected devices over the years. These devices need Low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN) for data communication. In UAE (United Arab Emirates), the NB-IoT (Narrowband IoT) and LTE-M (Long Term Evolution Category M1) is gaining popularity as these networks are already provisioned by the telecom providers.
Today, LPWAN has cellular (licensed band) and non-cellular (unlicensed) technologies. Under the cellular category we have NB-IoT and LTE-M and in unlicensed, the popular categories are LoRa (Long Range) and SigFox (IoT Technology company and it uses the SigFox protocol). LoRa and SigFox need communication gateway which aggregate IoT sensor data to the IoT platform through their own private networks.
NB-IoT and LTE-M don’t need communication gateways and hence it is cost effective. These sensors communicate directly through the nearest base station of the telecom provider to their Cloud IoT platform. They both delivers low cost, low power and extended coverage with low data transmission capabilities. In UAE, they already have the coverage and ideally it makes sense to use either of them as the communication enabler. Also note that both are part of 5G journey and will coexist with 5G network. So, industries and customers can fully rely on them for IoT connectivity options. However, depending on the use cases and application scenarios, either one – NB-IoT or LTE-M needs to be chosen.
Some of NB-IoT use cases are Smart City, Smart Parking, Smart Metering, Street Lighting, Home Automation, Building Automation, Smart Agriculture, etc. The key requirements here are periodic transmission of small packets of data and longer battery life. These sensors rely on 4G coverage, so they work anywhere where there is coverage – even indoors. Moreover, for the above use cases, the IoT sensors are stationary, the network latency is between 1.5 to 10 seconds and amount of data being transmitted (peak data rate less than 100 kbps) is very less. The uplink/downlink speed is 27.2 / 62.5 kbps. The battery power consumption is best at very low data rate and can achieve battery life up to ten years. The NB-IoT uses narrowband, so it allows enhanced indoor and underground penetration and overall reach. So, a latency-insensitive sensor can be positioned in hard-to-reach areas which do not require high throughput or frequent reporting – idle for use cases like pipe-line monitoring, waste bin monitoring, man hole monitoring, etc.
For LTE-M, the use cases scenarios are – mobility, real-time data communication (for example emergency alarm data, voice, tracking) and mission-critical applications. Some use cases are Smart Transportation, Wearables, Smart Asset Tracking, Home Security, Patient Monitoring, etc. The LTE-M latency is between 50 to 100 milli seconds and peak data rate is 384 kbps. The uplink/downlink speed is up to 1 Mbps. LTE-M is idle when you need to meet user experience requirement for static and mobility scenarios. It also allows more data throughput compared to NB-IOT.
To recapitulate, the IoT application use cases will define which communication enabler fits best based on multiple parameters like existing telecom networks (with NB-IOT and LTE-M), standalone networks (LoRa and SigFox), static and/or mobility requirements, latency, data transmission rate, power consumption, battery life, components like gateways, controllers and finally the cost. As UAE already has the NB-IoT communication network, most of the IoT projects in UAE will be based on NB-IoT LPWAN as it will speed up deployments and more cost-effective in terms of capex and low operational cost. With flexible deployment as well as the possibility to implement OTA (over-the-air) firmware upgrades, many telecommunication operators across the globe has deployed NB-IoT and LTE-M. According to a new study conducted by Grand View Research, Inc the narrowband-IoT market size is expected to reach USD 6,020 million by 2025, registering a CAGR of 34.9% from 2019 to 2025. NB-IoT is booming.