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NB-IoT vs. the world

Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is a standards-based low power wide area (LPWA) technology developed to enable a wide range of new IoT devices and services. According to the GSMA, NB-IoT significantly improves the power consumption of user devices, system capacity and spectrum efficiency, especially in deep coverage. This technology also offers battery life of more than 10 years, which offers support for a wide range of use cases.

NB-IoT also offers new physical layer signals and channels which are designed to meet the demanding requirement of extended coverage – rural and deep indoors – and ultra-low device complexity.

The technology is ideal for devices that generate low data traffic, rely on batteries and typically have a long device life cycle.

NB-IoT can be used to connect simple devices, such as sensors, to drive new data streams, reduce operational costs and create new business models. Smart meters, smart bins, environmental monitoring and precision agriculture are just a few applications of NB-IoT.

The GSMA also expects that the initial cost of the NB-IoT modules is expected to be comparable to GSM/GPRS.

Supported by all major mobile equipment, chipset and module manufacturers, NB-IoT can co-exist with 2G, 3G, and 4G mobile networks. It also benefits from all the security and privacy features of mobile networks, such as support for user identity confidentiality, entity authentication, confidentiality, data integrity, and mobile equipment identification. The first NB-IoT commercial launches have been completed and global roll out is expected for 2017/18.

NB-IoT is one of the more popular IoT protocols but there is an extensive list of other protocols for IoT connectivity. Here we describe a few of them.


LoRaWAN targets wide-area network (WAN) applications and is designed to provide low-power WANs with features specifically needed to support low-cost mobile secure bi-directional communication in IoT, M2M and smart city and industrial applications. This IoT protocol is optimized for low-power consumption and supports large networks with millions of devices.


NFC (Near Field Communication) is a technology that enables safe two-way interactions between electronic devices, and especially applicable for smartphones, allowing consumers to perform contactless payment transactions, access digital content and connect electronic devices. NFC extends the capability of contactless card technology and enables devices to share information at a distance that is less than 4cm.


Z-Wave is a low-power RF communications technology which uses low-energy radio waves to communicate from appliance to appliance, allowing for wireless control of residential appliances and other devices, such as lighting control, security systems, thermostats, windows, locks, swimming pools and garage door openers.

This protocol is optimized for reliable and low-latency communication of small data packets with data rates up to 100kbit/s. Z-Wave supports full mesh networks without the need for a coordinator node and is very scalable, enabling control of up to 232 devices.


This IoT protocol uses the ISM bands, which are free to use without the need to acquire licenses, to transmit data over a very narrow spectrum to and from connected objects. Sigfox uses a technology called Ultra Narrow Band (UNB) and is only designed to handle low data-transfer speeds of 10 to 1,000 bits per second. It consumes only 50 microwatts compared to 5000 microwatts for cellular communication.

Already deployed in tens of thousands of connected objects, the network is currently being rolled out in major cities across Europe and the US, as well as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other countries in Latin America and Asia. The network offers a robust and scalable network that can communicate with millions of battery-operated devices across areas of several square kilometers, making it suitable for various M2M applications that are expected to include smart meters, patient monitors, security devices, street lighting and environmental sensors.

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