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An Overview of Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT)

Upload date: 2020-12-31

5G NB: the Smallest LTE Module with Big Power | Fibocom

The 5G NB IoT claims to be the smallest LTE modules. The size and the cost-effectiveness render it a great part for consumer, security and medical devices.

5G NB is the smallest LTE module used as an IoT solution. In July 2019, 3GPP Release 16 confirmed that NB-IoT will be included as a candidate for 5G LPWA technology. As a result, NB-IoT will remain a crucial technology even as the world transitions to 5G. So 5G NB will coexist in the same network with other 5G NR components. It also means that NB-IoT gains a longer life as a technology that will continue to evolve with its counterparts in the 5G ecosystem.

This module provides devices with constant connectivity so that the IoT applications can send data in the background. NB-IoT modules are very common in the IoT industry because they are cost-efficient and they are the smallest LTE module making it possible for developers to use it in even compact spaces or small devices.

The expansion of IoT applications and devices has also allowed for the NB-IoT technology to become more easily available across the globe which in turn has made it popular among developers.

Key characteristics of 5G NB

Flexible - It can operate in 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G bands. As a result, it will not only continue to evolve as a part of the 5G LPWA technology but will also be able to support previous network technologies.

Low Power Consumption – 5G NB module does not require excessive power to run the applications. This is one reason why it is considered very suitable for industrial IoT solutions and is gaining considerable popularity with consumer applications too.

Seamless connectivity – With 3GPP introducing a non-terrestrial network to the 5G standardization, IoT devices will be able to enjoy smooth connectivity because the IoT terminals can roam between terrestrial and non-terrestrial networks.

Cost Efficient – Since NB-IoT has been around for a significant period of time now, it has become more accessible and relatively more cost-efficient than other modules.

Supports a massive number of connections – A single NB-IoT network cell can support the connection of large fleets of devices like up to 50,000 devices. For industrial applications, this can be a very useful feature.

Smallest LTE module – The small size of the 5G NB module makes it ideal for compact devices like wearable devices which are beginning to use these modules to enhance the gamut of features offered through them.

Applications of 5G NB

5G NB can be used in industrial as well as consumer applications benefitting society in many ways. While consumer applications will typically include smart home devices, wearable devices, and consumer healthcare products, we may see higher diversification and new applications for the 5G NB IoT module to meet modern connectivity demands by consumers.

On the other hand, we will also see an increase in industrial applications of 5G NB as well. Existing applications may also improve as NB-IoT begins to evolve in the 5G ecosystem. At this time, NB-IoT is used in companies to optimize their production and manufacturing processes and improve data accuracy.

Fibocom’s NB-IoT modules

Fibocom has been manufacturing and developing solutions for the IoT industry for a considerable period and in this time, we have been able to gain deep knowledge of the technologies and the requirements of the industry.

We manufacture NB-IoT modules as well as a wide range of other IoT connectivity products. As the use cases of NB-IoT increases, we are glad to be a part of the highly dynamic IoT industry where existing technologies continually evolve and new standards create new possibilities in IoT for developers and device manufacturers.

When using Fibocom’s 5G NB modules, you will enjoy reliability, stability and cost efficiency.


With the gradual retirement of 2G and 3G technology, the release of low-band networks is demanded by operators and diverse vertical industries to cover the booming needs of communication and IoT applications. Although experts’ conclusions vary widely on the growth forecast of IoT, all agree on the exponential increase of machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity in the following years. To meet the connectivity challenges imposed by the massive-scale digital transformation, NB-IoT (Narrowband IoT) is introduced to address the LPWAN requirements of the Internet of Things.

What is Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT)

Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), also referred to as LTE Cat-NB, was initially identified as a standard Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technology by 3GPP in Release 13 in 2016. It aims to integrate the physical and digital worlds and optimizes connectivity for low complex devices that require infrequent small amounts of data transmission, wider and deeper network coverage, long battery life, and cost-effectiveness. 3GPP Release 14 in 2017 brought several improvements to the NB-IoT standard later with LTE Cat LB2 to further reduce power consumption, enhance data connectivity and introduces limited mobility.

The potential for NB-IoT technology is huge. Devices using NB-IoT technology can work in the field for more than 10 years without battery changes. It comes with great affordability which allows it to deliver coverage to hundreds of millions of devices at a very low cost per unit. NB-IoT module price is comparable to that of existing 2G-based modules. It can also offer 20+dB penetrative coverage for deep underground and enclosed space scenarios to satisfy IoT deployment in hard-to-reach areas.

NB-IoT - Now A Part of the 5G Family

Although 5G is still at the initial stage of commercialization, it is estimated to dominate the global mobile communication technology soon. The 5G requirements, defined by ITU-R and 3GPP, cover three main components: 1/ mMTC: Mobile IoT/Massive IoT/LPWA; 2. uRLLC: Mission-Critical Communications; 3. Enhanced Mobile Broadband. In July 2019, 3GPP Release 16 has confirmed that NB-IoT meets the KPI requirements of mMTC scenarios and included NB-IoT as a candidate 5G LPWA technology. NB-IoT, therefore, will continue evolving as part of the 5G specifications and coexist in the same network with other 5G NR components.

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The inclusion of NB-IoT into the 5G family will boost the technology evolution of the industry. In long term, it protects the industry’s return on investment (ROI) period by guaranteeing a longer technology life cycle. Mobile network operators (MNO) can plan NB-IoT in 5G for future long-term operation and the players in the vertical industry chain can include NB-IoT products and solutions in the long-term roadmap. In addition to investment concerns, the unified evolution of technologies can enhance interoperability with other 5G components and facilitate the network construction of the 5G ecosystem. ICT Enterprises and the verticals can work jointly to do researches, formulate industry standards and promote 5G.

Applications of 5G Narrowband IoT Technology

5G narrowband IoT is gaining momentum in diverse commercial scenarios such as smart city, smart metering, smart agriculture, smart logistics, smart manufacturing and smart home. Smart sensors, smart locks, smart street lights, these 5G narrowband IoT products and solutions are emerging rapidly in the market and evolving digital life.

5G-based NB-IoT technology is expected to play a crucial role in massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC). The wave of big data has driven the digitalization of enterprise and the realization of Industry 4.0. The adoption of 5G narrowband IoT applications in enterprise operations and manufacturing enables companies to optimize the production process and reduce operating costs by simplifying workflow, improving data accuracy, reducing manpower demands and achieving manufacturing automation. Water and gas metering would be excellent examples presenting efficiency, accuracy, automation, and cost-effectiveness of NB-IoT applications.

Besides benefits addressed in business, 5G narrowband IoT technology also offers tremendous advantages to consumers by connecting them to a smarter life. Smart sensors and readers embedded in white goods and other electronic devices allow users to remotely monitor and control their equipment and device, ensuring a healthy, safe, and convenient connected life.

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NB-IoT Modules

5G narrowband IoT applications use NB-IoT modules to obtain wireless transmission capabilities. NB-IoT module is a small electronic device embedded in machines or objects that connect to wireless networks and send and receive data. It provides always-on connectivity and allows IoT applications to send data automatically without someone hitting a send button.

NB-IoT modules offer affordable wireless data transmission solutions for scenarios that require large-scale IoT deployment with massive end devices. It allows smart devices to access wireless networks with super-wide coverage, extremely low power consumption, and reliable connectivity. Besides the benefits brought by the communication technology itself, NB-IoT Modules also claims to be the smallest LTE modules. It has the smallest dimensions compared with other 5g and LTE modules. The miniature size makes them perfect for consumer devices, security, sophisticated medical devices and other space-constrained devices with ultra-small size as a core requirement. With the expansion of NB-IoT applications and the growing industry players’ involvement in NB-IoT technology, NB-IoT module expense has dropped significantly to the current level where it is comparable to that of existing 2G-based modules. Price advantages, together with its low power consumption, making it a cost-effective solution for daily IoT applications.

The technological advantages such as wide-area coverage, low power consumption, better reliability, and 10-year battery life have led to major operators adopting the technology, which are driving the growth of the NB-IoT market. According to Ericsson's 2020 Mobility report released in November, Cellular IoT connections are projected to reach 6.9 Billion growing at a CAGR of 23%, and NB-IoT and Cat-M1 connections will take up to 45% of the projected connections. The growth rate is expected to bring huge opportunities for businesses with the command of the ecosystem.

Related Topics: #NB-IoT
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