NB-IoT 2020, a New Journey Starts from 100 Million - Mobile World Live

NB-IoT 2020, a New Journey Starts from 100 Million

11 MAR 2020

PARTNER FEATURE: The number of NB-IoT global connections has exceeded 100 million in Jan 2020, an exciting milestone worth celebrating. It is a testimonial of NB-IoT commercial success and boosts the confidence of future NB-IoT developments.

Data has shown that, 2 million NB-IoT connections were reached in Jan 2018, 30 million connections were marked in Jan 2019 while 100 million connections were achieved in Jan 2020. NB-IoT is undoubtedly on a fast growing track. A continuing exponential growth can be reasonably projected in the following years as NB-IoT evolves to be an essential part of 5G mMTC (massive machine-type communication).

NB-IoT as the Predominant LPWA Technology

Among the current large-scale NB-IoT use cases, the number of smart water and gas meter connections has exceeded 10 million respectively. Enormous social benefits have been acquired by using NB-IoT smart meters, such as replacing costly manual readings with remote ones, supplying resources more accurately, and detecting pipeline leakages more efficiently.

In Italy, 5000 NB-IoT smart gas meters were deployed at locations where 2G signals failed and instantly achieved more than 97% online rate. This impressive result convinced the local regulation departments to issue policies of using NB-IoT as the major technology in future smart meters. A big contract has been signed to replace nearly 1 million gas meters in Italy, starting in 2020.

In Yintan, China, 2 million tons of water is saved each year with 100 thousand NB-IoT smart water meters. Goldcard Smart Group Co., Ltd. and Ningbo Water Meter Co, Ltd. have announced respectively that more than 80% and 62% of meter shipments are equipped with NB-IoT in 2019.

The aforementioned facts are strong proofs that NB-IoT smart metering industry has gained a strong momentum with spontaneous growth.

There are also million-level NB-IoT applications, such as shared laundries, smart street lights and smart parking. Win-win business models have been developed with operators at the center while effectively engaging multiple parties such as the local government, device manufacturers, third-party service providers, insurance companies and end users. These applications have proved the success on million-level practice, which can be readily replicated and promoted on a larger scale. At the same time, we also see the emergence of new applications, such as shared bikes in Belgium, charging posts in South Korea, POS machines, TV set-top boxes, and so on.

NB-IoT becomes an essential part of 5G mMTC

Based on connection requirement, 5G IoT can be classified into high-bandwidth applications, critical communication applications, and low power wide area (LPWA) applications. For example, HD video backhaul is a high-bandwidth application, remote driving is a critical communication application, and smart metering is a typical LPWA application.

In July 2019, 3GPP submitted a proposal to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) with NB-IoT as a component of 5G. The proposal was accepted by ITU, which means NB-IoT was officially included in the 5G candidate technology set. Being a part of 5G technologies, NB-IoT terminals currently deployed can access the 5G network after spectrum refarming to 5G NR (new radio) in the future. Therefore, they will have a long lifecycle spanning 4G and 5G. Vertical industry users can make the best use of the mature NB-IoT ecosystem to carry out digital reconstruction, improve production efficiency, and win the first-mover advantage in the upcoming 5G IoT era.

NB-IoT is ready to take over 2G/3G MTCs

Due to mobile industry’s increasing demand of high network efficiency and low operation cost, 2G/3G network phase out is an irreversible trend. Up to now, more than 30 operators have already decommissioned2G/3G worldwide, and over 100 operators and enterprises have announced the 2G/3G sunset plan.

From network evolution perspective, 4G will keep long-term evolution with 5G. Due to the long lifecycles of 2G/3G MTC services, many of them will last-out the life span of 2G/3G networks and become the main obstacles for network evolution. Therefore, operators need to plan ahead, stop provisioning new IoT applications and connections in the 2G/3G network from now on, and begin to migrate existing 2G/3G IoT services to new technologies based on NB-IoT, LTE-M, or CAT1.

For industry partners, it is important to realize that the QoS on 2G/3G networks will not be guaranteed in the long term. It is a good strategy to adopt longer lifecycle technologies such as NB-IoT for more stable operations and sustainable returns on investments.

NB-IoT, as the top choice of global LPWA networks and an official candidate of 5G mMTC, is starting a new journey from 100 million in 2020!

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