The abbreviation NB-IoT stands for Narrowband-IoT. It is a standard radio technology that operates in the licensed frequency band and is designed to provide an optimal combination of range and energy efficiency.

The Internet of Things (IoT), which connects different types of devices with overarching systems, requires powerful and reliable communication technologies. NB-IoT was developed specifically for IoT-applications to meet the requirements of ubiquitous networking.  Today, NB-IoT are used for applications such as smart cities infrastructure, asset tracking in logistics and smart farming.


Standard and compatibility

NB-IoT refers to a category of standards developed by 3GPP, an umbrella organization working with standardization for mobile telecommunication networks. NB-IoT was first standardized in 3GPP Release 13 as “LTE category NB1” later updated with NB2 in Release 14. The standard basically covers how an NB-IoT device shall function and communicate in a telecommunication network. It also explains the different mechanisms available for saving power. The power saving functions are not mandatory, so the device’s actual battery performance ultimately depends on what functions the network provider currently supports. Guidelines are developed to make this as homogeneous as possible between different telecommunication providers.


Technical performance

LoRaWAN and NB-IoT are often contenders for the title of “best IoT wireless technology” but it is not about one winner. Both technologies provide valuable features, which is why the preferred choice depends on the specific use case. NB-IoT is managed by telecommunication operators, resulting in a defined service level but reliant on the operator’s geographical coverage. There are service providers for LoRaWAN, but there is also the possibility to build your own cost-efficient network.

As with all telecommunication radio technologies NB-IoT performance is dependent on the overall quality and capacity of the service provider and damping of the signal caused by physical objects between sender and receiver. Compared to other radio solutions, NB-IoT offers high penetration which makes it suitable for deep indoor placement.

NB-IoT delivers a comparably high bandwidth and capable downlink communication. This enables more data demanding applications, such as over the air updates and flexible schemes for retrieving data. This capacity in combination with being adapted to complex telecommunication networks, makes NB-IoT more power demanding and having less predictable power consumption. Despite this, constrained battery operation for well above 10 years is achievable with reasonably sized battery cells.

Suitable applications

NB-IoT is the ideal telecommunication solution for more demanding infrastructure applications. The technology is suitable for power operation with 230V or a classic battery, it can therefore be used in numerous applications. NB-IoT has low acquisition, operating and service costs because of its simple chipset design. In addition, the NB-IoT connectivity modules are equipped with energy-saving functions such as sleep mode. This results in maximum energy efficiency.

Except being cost- and energy-efficient NB-IoT also has a particularly high-power density because of the narrowband modulation methods. This is five decibels higher compared to LTE-M and even 20 decibels higher than GSM. In this way, optimal network coverage in the form of deep building penetration can be achieved. This is particularly advantageous in remote areas, but also in buildings with basements whose measuring points are not equipped with 2G (GPRS) or 4G (LTE).

It is easy to install NB-IoT as it works according to the plug-and-play principle. Devices automatically connect to the NB-IoT network without the requirement of installing local networks or additional gateways.

When searching for a suitable telecommunication, it is important to evaluate the network provider to assure that service level is adequate, especially in rural areas.

Realize secure data transmission with NB-IoT

NB-IoT not only offers high data transmission speed and long range, but also a high level of data security. The security of NB-IoT is ensured by encryption and authentication of data transmission. The encrypted data can only be decrypted by authorized recipients. Authentication of data transmission ensures that the transmitted data comes from a trusted source and has not been tampered with by an unauthorized person. These high security standards make NB-IoT an ideal technology for applications where security and privacy are of paramount importance, such as in the healthcare industry or safety-critical infrastructures.

As a standardized technology, NB-IoT fulfils the security mechanisms according to 3GPP and thus also has security functions that are constantly being reviewed and improved. NB-IoT devices can be updated remotely using Firmware Over the Air (FOTA) to stay up to date with the latest technology.

Elvaco's Meter Connectivity Modules

Elvaco has a wide range of products using NB-IoT technology. Our selection partially includes meter connectivity modules (MCM), which are used to deliver data from meters to a receiving system. Each of our MCMs are designed for a specific meter. Magnetic antennas that help transmit the signals to an internal meter connectivity module, are also a part of our product range.

As NB-IoT offers high penetration availability, the meter with the integrated meter connectivity module can be installed almost anywhere. This feature is convenient, partially since meters are not typically wanted as interior. In combination with not requiring a private network, meters with an integrated NB-IoT MCM are easy to install.

NB-IoT meter connectivity modules are easily updated, thanks to the functional downlink communication. LoRaWAN modules requires firmware updates to be done on site, while NB-IoT modules are updated remotely.

Except from being easy to install and update, the NB-IoT meter connectivity modules deliver data safe- and securely because of the encryption and authentication availabilities. This makes them attractive for various applications.

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