Operators unite for narrowband IoT

09 November 2015 | Alan Burkitt-Gray


Seven operators and a range of vendors, as well as the mobile industry’s GSM Association, have laid the foundations for a new industry forum aimed at accelerating the ecosystem around narrowband internet of things technology.

The new technology is an emerging industry solution for deployment of low-power, wide-area networks using licensed operator spectrum, and it is expected to have global scale. 

It is designed to provide deep coverage of hard to reach places, supporting a massive number of low throughput, ultra-low cost devices, with low device power consumption and optimised network architecture.

Vodafone chaired the inaugural meeting to promote NB-IoT, and the other six operators backing the development are China Mobile, China Unicom, Etisalat, LG Uplus, Telecom Italia and Telefónica.

Vendors supporting the initiative are Ericsson, GTI, Huawei, Intel, Nokia and Qualcomm. The GSMA is also a member of the forum, which is intended to bring together all of the industry and ecosystem partners in a way which helps deliver NB-IoT to the market as quickly as possible. The forum will be hosted within an existing industry-level organisation. 

Six of the operators — China Mobile, Etisalat, LG Uplus, China Unicom’s Shanghai Unicom, Telecom Italia and Vodafone — are supporting the creation of six new NB-IoT open labs worldwide, which will focus on NB-IoT new service innovation, industry development, interoperability tests and product compliance certification.

It is expected that these labs and others will form a key part of the NB-IoT forum initiative. New use cases and business models will be explored in these open labs, and results will be shared with the whole industry. 

Customer pilots using pre-NB-IoT technology are already underway. Pre-commercial deployment is expected during the second half of 2016, with commercial roll-out from early in 2017. The NB-IoT forum and the open labs will help to drive the development of the NB-IoT industry to the next stage.