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As the strongest contender for the preferred GSMA clean slate solution, Huawei Mobile Middle East Regional Group and Senior Manager, Mr.Panen, explains how Narrow Band IoT standards could open new market opportunities for high-volume M2M applications.

The growth and popularization of technologies such as cloud computing, big data, sensors and mobile networks create an environment for IoT to flourish. IoT is becoming one of the most important innovative powers in the economy and will make a huge market space for the mobile industry. IoT will consist of 27 billion objects in 2024, a year on year increase of 18%, according the Machina Research.

M2M applications can add value to almost every industry sector, but not all M2M industry sectors will mature along the same timeline. The development of M2M in different industry sectors is influenced by ecosystem, application and regulation policy. Today, we broadly segment the timeline of M2M into three phases based on different industry sectors.

  • From 2015 to 2018, Retail (ATM/PoS), Utility (Smart Meters/Smart Grid), Logistics and Smart Medical applications will grow quite rapidly.
  • From 2018 to 2022, Connected Cars, Smart Cities, Smart Building, ITS and Smart Home will mature to become hot M2M applications.
  • By 2025, more large scale Agriculture/Environment - combined with Industry 4.0 - M2M applications will emerge as huge M2M businesses.

Due to the development of M2M, new requirements for cellular networks will be raised, including broad and deep coverage considering geographical coverage and not only population coverage. Lower cost and lower power consumption of communication modules will also be needed. A huge volume of connection will further be required in a single cell, which may rise up to 100,000 per cell.

Among the current access technologies, short-distance technology is absolutely predominant. However, this technology is applicable to small-sized private networks rather than a ubiquitous IoT. To meet the increasing demands for low power and wide area (LPWA) applications, operators require a new technology to rapidly construct a basic IoT for vertical sectors.

NB IoT: The optimum technology for LPWA
The Cellular Internet of Things (CIoT) enables manufacturers to access new, cheaper communications hardware that can operate for many years on a small battery and that will connect to operator's existing global network through the dedicated access layer. The CIoT will operate in operator's licensed spectrum, which will best ensure performance and reliability as the number of objects and devices needing a low power, low bandwidth connection increases.

In specific, Narrow Band IOT (NB-IoT) is operated on licensed spectrum, making it different from license-exempt technology which is strongly constrained by transmit power and duty cycles. As such, NB-IoT has a full usable downlink and makes a scheduler-based system possible.

Aside from its unique structure, NB-IoT networks are anticipated to open new market opportunities for high-volume M2M in three main ways:

  • No power source required. Many M2M applications that could support the costs associated with a traditional cellular solution cannot do so as they are not attached to a permanent power supply. By making a service that can operate for up to 10+ years on the same batteries, the technology opens many possible markets, with gas and water meters being perhaps the most obvious examples here in the region.
  • Strong propagation. The ability to reach deep underground makes it possible for applications such as connected meters located in basements and sensors monitoring sewer conditions to communicate. The NB-IoT technology can, for instance, reach coverage extension to 20 dB+ for devices which are located in basement areas.
  • Low cost. NB-IoT will be able to provide connectivity for a range of different services for which the costs of a traditional cellular solution would be prohibitive. On average, it decreases the UE cost to 1/3 and lasts up 10 years.

The evolution of NB-CIoT to NB-IoT
The work item titled NB-IoT was approved by 3GPP in September 2015, representing a major milestone for the Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) market. The new technology will provide extended indoor coverage, support of a massive number of low throughput devices, and ultra-low device cost.

Huawei and partners have been working together with other players on Narrow Band Cellular IoT technology for several years At the same time, more and more operators raised requirements to expand the scope of NB CIoT work item description. As a result, the LPWA market is widely acknowledged by the industry, and this has finally led to the approval of the work item from NB CIoT to NB-IoT. In addition to Cellular IoT technology research, Huawei conducted several trials with top operators. Meanwhile, Huawei collaborated to explore new business opportunities with key application providers including Veolia, Kamstrup and Fiorentini on smart metering, smart parking and other related applications.

At this year's MWC in Barcelona this past March, Huawei and Vodafone successfully completed the world's first demo of smart metering application using CIoT technology. Furthermore, Huawei and China Unicom performed trials as well as a live demo of the smart parking application in Shanghai. This application stimulated much interest from global operators and increased confidence in selecting this technology.

As top industry players, Huawei and partners will continue to make a substantial contribution towards final standards confirmation of NB-IoT technology which will undoubtedly accelerate development and commercialization of the LPWA market.

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