US operator Verizon announced plans to launch a nationwide narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) guard band network sometime this year following the successful completion of its first data session trial alongside Ericsson.
The news came just hours after rival T-Mobile US staked its claim as the first US operator to conduct a successful NB-IoT guard band test. Both operators previously shared plans to work on NB-IoT in 2018 and T-Mobile said its guard band network will be up and running by mid-year.
Yesterday the team successfully tested Narrowband IoT in guard bands in the lab, and this morning they completed the first data message in the field – 2 U.S. firsts from @TMobile in 24 hours! pic.twitter.com/545ydPC53c
— Neville (@NevilleRay) February 1, 2018
A Verizon representative told Mobile World Live its deployment will use 700MHz spectrum and primarily involve software upgrades. The representative added Verizon sees NB-IoT as a suitable solution for use cases including smart metering, alarms, smart city sensors and environmental monitoring. The opertaor had already seen “significant customer interest” in the network, the representative said.
Verizon is no stranger to low power IoT deployments: the operator launched a nationwide LTE-M network in March 2017. But Verizon’s VP of network planning Bill Stone noted the push into NB-IoT is a way for the operator to provide “more customer options to the IoT ecosystem,” particularly around throughput and battery life.
Unlike other low power IoT technologies like LTE-M which only support in-band deployments, NB-IoT offers three different 3GPP approved options: in-band, standalone and guard band.
In-band deployments use the same spectrum which carries LTE traffic, while standalone scenarios employ a new chunk of unused spectrum. Guard band deployments push operation out of the LTE bands and into the untapped spectrum in-between radio bands which is typically reserved to protect against interference.
Where LTE-M provides mid-level throughput to support applications including wearables and fleet and asset management, Verizon said NB-IoT in the guard band uses 180kHz of bandwidth to deliver data rates below 100kb/s. LTE-M also supports voice calls: NB-IoT does not.
Like Verizon and T-Mobile, Sprint in May 2017 said an NB-IoT launch is on the cards following a planned deployment of LTE-M in mid-2018.
But wireless operators aren’t the only ones pursuing NB-IoT. Charlie Ergen, CEO of satellite company Dish Network, said in November 2017 deployment of an NB-IoT network will be the first phase of the company’s two-pronged strategy to break into the wireless market.