Ericsson, Intel and Nokia announced backing for a technology called Narrow Band LTE (NB-LTE), describing it as “the ideal wireless connectivity solution for the growing IoT market segment”.
In a statement, Nokia said that it “plans to work closely with Ericsson and Intel to develop and bring to market the products needed for the commercialisation of NB-LTE timed with market demand”.
In a whitepaper, the Finnish company previously said that NB-LTE could be deployed in 200kHz channels, compared with 1.4MHz for LTE-M, providing an alternative for applications where the transfer of large amounts of data is not necessary.
It said that while this means it can be used in a refarmed GSM band, it can also be used in shared spectrum with an existing LTE network.
“NB-LTE is an optimised variant of the widely-deployed 4G LTE technology, and is well-suited for the IoT market segment because of its low implementation cost, ease-of-use, and power efficiency,” the Nokia statement said.
Intel said it intends to support commercial rollout of the technology with a roadmap for NB-LTE chipsets and product upgrades beginning in 2016. Ericsson and Nokia will provide network evolutions from LTE to support NB-LTE.
But the announcement does not amount to universal support. Network infrastructure giant Huawei is also working on its own Narrow Band Cellular IoT platform, stating that “many participants” at a meeting earlier this year agreed the technology “presents the most mature technology combining the lowest end-to-end costs and highest efficiency, in terms of low power requirements and widest coverage”.
Proponents of an LTE-family solution highlight advantages such as reduced fragmentation, deployment flexibility, and scalability. And while operators are following different paths with regard to 2G and 3G network shutdowns, LTE has a much longer shelf-life, making it suitable for large-scale M2M deployments such as smart meters, where equipment would be replaced rarely.