Thirteen billion “things” are currently connected by digital sensors and transmitters. That number is projected to grow to 39 billion by 2020. The expected impact on the global economy by 2025: $…
According to McKinsey Global Institute, by 2025 we should expect 50 billion connected devices or nodes, representing $6 trillion of incremental business. Such high and hard to even imagine number of concurrently reporting nodes will present significant challenges. Starting with security, but also handling tremendous amount of data generated by all these nodes, even registering so many devices. All these will have to be accommodated by underneath wide area network technology supporting IoT. Lets don’t forget about other factors such as cost and low power requirements. In order to adopt IoT, the overhead cost (radio and supporting electronics) should be reasonable low or around $5. From practical perspective, nodes should be able to operate for years on a single set of small batteries. Ideally, subscriptions (aka mobile) are out of questions as this model would quickly become unmanageable and way too expensive.
The race to define IoT connectivity standard has already began…
As of today, we can refer to two type of networks; narrow band and lte based.
Narrow band networks:
Sigfox, uses unlicensed frequencies (868 MHz in Europe and 915 MHz in the US & Canada). Sigfox has submitted the technology to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).
Weightless is a standard designed to operate in the TV White Space bands.
LoRa, uses unlicensed frequencies (868 MHz in Europe and 915 MHz in the US & Canada).
On-Ramp Wireless RPMA (Random Phase Multiple Access) technology based on unlicensed 2.4GHz band.
Huawei/Neul clean-slate technology (FDMA) is focusing to standardize under 3GPP GERAN for licensed spectrum operation.
NR-LTE: Narrow band LTE; Joint effort by Ericsson, Intel and Nokia.
In order to meet low cost / high range requirements, “release 13” devices would have to be deployed. The expected date for mass deployment is mid 2017.
This gives advantage and opportunity to narrow band technologies to define IoT WAN standard before alternative options are even available. As of today Sigfox and LoRa are the strongest players with several city wide deployments and lots of support from commercial entities.
IoT has a new wireless technology and it has influential supporters in Intel, Nokia and Ericsson. It is a narrowband version of 4G LTE, dubbed NB-LTE, which has been created just for the needs of the internet-connected devices and sensors which will make up the internet of things (IoT).
Not everyone supports the technology. Huawei of China is not a friend of NB-LTE and it believes there are better ways to adapt existing networks.
Unlike smartphones which require as large a bandwidth in the radio channel for downloading big data files such as video and music, IoT devices will only transmit small amounts of data. But the main requirements of an IoT wireless protocol is that it must not require a big data processing function so the IoT devices can be low power and small. The advantage NB-LTE has is that it will build on the proliferation of 4G LTE networks, requiring only an upgrade to existing infrastructure to support IoT services.
“Cellular networks already cover 90 percent of the world’s population so it makes sense to leverage this global footprint to support and drive IoT adoption through the standardisation of narrow-band LTE,” said Thomas Norén, head of radio product management, Ericsson.
Intel has said it will start offering first chips for narrow-band LTE in 2016. The chip company will work with wireless network suppliers Nokia and Ericsson to support the upgrade of existing LTE networks with narrow-band LTE for the roll out of machine-to-machine communication and IoT services.
What other narrowband radio technologies could be used for IoT? For short range wireless links mesh technologies such as Bluetooth and ZigBee will be used and even Wi-Fi extensions. But it may not be easy or even possible to scale these up for wide-area coverage. “We believe in building an ecosystem around NB-LTE to speed up the take-up of the Internet of Things,” said Stephan Litjens, vice president, portfolio strategy & analytics, Nokia Networks.