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NB-IoT has become official!

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  • Jimmy at
  • July 15, 2020

5G has three application scenarios. In 5G version 1.0 R15 and 2.0 version R16 protocol, two of them have been basically realized in terms of technology. They are mobile high-bandwidth eMBB and high reliability and low lantency uRLLC.


However, the realization path for the third application scenario mMTC is still uncertain. It is mainly because if we want to achieve MloT, the radio interface technology should be improved greatly in order that the multiplying users (IoT users) can access at the same time and frequency resources. It requires an innovative reuse technology, NOMA. 


The current 4G and 5G radio interface technology is called OFDMA. In short, users are "orthogonal" in frequency under OFDMA, so they can overlap each other and transmit their data without interfering with each other, thus the wireless network capacity can be increased.


NOMA, which appears to be the opposite of OFDMA, goes further than OFDMA. It allows different users’ data to be transmitted over the same time-frequency resource, which make the wireless capacity increase further. So it has been regarded as the main candidate for mMTC.


The differences between NOMA and OFDMA

However, NOMA is only a prototype for an implementation of mMTC, which is still under discussion. The member associations and enterprises in 3GPP are still developing and proposing the implementation of NOMA. However, in addition to the new reuse technology to realize mMTC, there is a tendency in the industry that incorporate NB-IoT into 5G protocol framework and make it become a way to realize mMTC.


NB-IoTNarrow Band Internet of Things, is also a standard led by 3GPP like 4G and 5G mobile communication standards.

In the R13 version of the protocol in the 4G era, NB-IoT, a IoT standard that is completely based on 4G underlying technology was born.


Actually, the IoT has many common with the principle when people use mobile phone to connect the internet. They transmit the data in a terminal to the network through a base station or receive the data from the network from the base station. However, the vast majority of the IoT application scenario have no high requirements for the data transmission rate and time delay,  which are given strict requirement by the people using cell phones, such as intelligent water meter meter, intelligent street light, Intelligent Manhole Cover, Shared cycling, etc. On the contrary, IoT puts forward higher requirements at connection number for one time, low-cost terminal and terminal power saving.


NB-IoT application scenarios

Therefore, 3GPP separately proposes a mobile communication technology standard for such low-power and large-connected IOT applications, namely NB-IoT. Nowadays, NB-IoT has been widely deployed in existing networks and has been widely applied, making it the most influential IoT in the world.


According to domestic data, by the end of February 2020, the number of NB-IoT connections for domestic three major operators has exceeded 100 million, and the number of NB-IoT connections of the three operators has exceeded 10 million, two of which have exceeded 40 million. It is expected that, NB-IoT will carry 45% of all IoT devices in China by 2025.


As the relatively mature IoT network, it has already carried a large number of users, and it is basically consistent with the definition of 5G mMTC application scenario. Therefore, NB-IoT is expected to integrated into 5G all the time.


Especially for many demand side, at this critical juncture, is it a good idea to make their own Internet of Things devices directly connected to NB-IoT or wait for the coming of 5G mMTC standard and then make it be connected to 5G? Government and enterprise users will also feel perplexed for this. It should be noted that NB-IoT devices are designed to lasting for 10 years. As a result, if NB-IoT devices are installed now, they are likely to be replaced after N years. If they are temporarily replaced with 5G modules in order to use 5G functions, it will inevitably cause high costs.


Anyway, NB-IoT is expected to become part of the 5G standard in the future.


Finally, on July 9, 2020,  NB-IoT became official under the expectation of all parties.


On July 9, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) 's wireless Communications Department (ITU-R) held a meeting and announced that NB-IoT met various target requirements and was officially accepted as the ITU IMT-2020 5G technical standard.


The ITU is the world's most authoritative communications agency and actually, 3GPP provides service for it. In fact, the official name for 5G is IMT-2020. In other words, at the push of 3GPP, ITU officially accepted NB-IoT as part of the 5G standard.


In the future, IoT devices not only can access the internet through NB-IoT core, but they can eventually be connected to the 5GC and share 5G edge computing, network slicing and other services.


NB-IoT can access 5GC


However, it should be noted that, just like 5G is divided into versions 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0, NB-IoT devices also have multiple versions. Only NB-IoT devices and networks that conform to R16 standard can access 5G core network. Therefore, NB-IoT devices that already exist in the current network need to be upgraded if they want to access 5G core network in the future.


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