IoT is the future, but are you ready?

In this second feature of a series of excerpts from a recent white paper published by Telenor Connexion, we look in-depth at the characteristics of LTE-M and NB-IoT technologies and how they will affect the market.


LTE-M and NB-IoT Technologies – increased Battery Life, Enhanced Coverage, and Simplified Hardware


LTE-M and NB-IoT are designed to support IoT devices that need a long battery life or are used at locations that are difficult to reach with normal 4G technology, such as deep indoor locations.


So how are they different and how will they affect the market?


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Battery Life and Increased Coverage


Battery life is increased by reducing the radio communications between device and network, and devices can go into sleep mode or listen less often to the network. LTE-M and NB-IoT both offer better coverage than 4G in, for example, deep indoor or remote areas.


There is however a trade-off between battery life, coverage and responsiveness. To leverage this requires access to new types of functionality in the network- for example PSM and EDRX use cases that need a fast response are less suitable for battery saving and enhanced coverage.


Likewise, devices that need a life cycle of 10 years need to be deployed in areas with good coverage. To support a balanced approach, battery saving and enhanced coverage are applied in step with each other. Significant improvement in battery life and coverage can be achieved by sleep mode and applying the right level of repetitions.


New Pricing Models Likely to Emerge


Pricing models for LTE-M and NB-IoT will likely be different to traditional telecom pricing because of the different traffic profile involved with IoT connectivity.


There will be a vast number of connected LTE-M and NB-IoT devices but they will send low amounts of data. Rather than the data consumption per device price model, network providers will most likely consider charging access fees for devices on a per device basis for LTE-M and NB-IoT, or a combination of both, to better match the network resources consumed by these devices.


Hardware Simplification


LTE-M and NB-IoT both use simplified versions of regular 4G which reduces hardware complexity and cost once the technology is operating at scale.


GSMA maintains a list of modules that are commercially available at: iot/mobile-iot-modules/ showing that the market for modules is fragmented into three main categories: modules supporting either LTE-M or NB-IoT and modules that support both LTE-M and NB-IoT.


LTE-M and NB-IOT  – Global Availability and Outlook


For global deployments of devices, enterprises need to take the life cycle of technology in consideration. Global deployments need global availability, but new technologies are first locally available, typically in urban areas or with nationwide deployments. So when can we expect global availability for LTE-M and NB-IOT?


Today, the status for LTE-M and NB-IoT is that they are both locally available and on their way to becoming globally available.


We see that sometimes one operator in a region starts focusing on either LTE-M or NB-IoT, after which their competitors in the same region often offers the alternative. We expect that in a few years both LTE-M and NB-IoT will be locally available in all countries.


Nationwide deployments are a good start but for global availability, commercial global roaming agreements between operators must be in place, so enterprises can deploy their devices using only one contract and one point of contact.


With 4G widely available and 5G around the corner, 2G and 3G are slowly being phased out. 2G technology is today still widely used in IoT solutions. 2G voice technology is used for voice calling, including emergency calls such as eCall – a European initiative for rapid assistance to motorists involved in a collision anywhere in the European Union.


eCall was made mandatory in all new type-approved cars sold in the European Union from April 2018. As eCall mandates 2G voice, operators in the European Union cannot simply phase out 2G.


We expect that most European operators will support 2G until 2025. In North America, 2G is less widely available and certain countries in Asia and the Pacific have already phased out 2G.


LTE-M and NB-IoT are starting to become globally available, starting with LTE-M. We expect LTE-M and NB-IoT to be available during the complete lifecycle of 5G.



Further Reading:


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