3GPP IoT technologies NB-IoT/Cat-NB1 and LTE-M/Cat-M1 are becoming the global dominant technologies. Ten operators have launched 3GPP-standards-based LPWA IoT services (Etisalat in UAE has launched both NB-IoT/Cat-NB1 and LTE-M/Cat-M1) whereas 8 operators commercially launches NB-IoT networks.
Some networks are larger than others. For e.g. Vodafone in the Netherlands claims nationwide coverage for its NB-IoT network and Verizon in the USA covers 2.4 million square miles with its Cat-M1 network. Smaller launches include Deutsche Telekom’s NB-IoT network in the city of Hamburg only, and China Unicom’s launch in at least five cities in China.
3GPP-Standards-Based IoT Networks Launched Globally:
No. – Country – Operator – Technology
- USA – AT&T – Cat-M1
- UAE – Etisalat – Cat-M1, NB-IoT
- Spain – Vodafone – NB-IoT
- Netherlands – Vodafone – NB-IoT
- South Africa – Vodacom – NB-IoT
- Germany – Deutsche Telekom – NB-IoT
- USA – Verizon – Cat-M1
- China – China Unicom – NB-IoT
- South Korea – KT, LG Uplus – NB-IoT
At the end of July 2017 there were reports of NB-IoT network launches in China by both China Telecom and China Mobile, but there was no confirmation from the operators.
Verizon, AT&T, Vodafone, Vodacom, Deutsche Telekom, China Unicom, Etisalat, LG Uplus and KT have all launched IoT networks using either LTE-M/Cat-M1 or NB-IoT/Cat-NB1 and other operators have plans to launch in 2017 or 2018.There are 16 planned LTE-M/Cat-M1 or NB-IoT/Cat-NB1 networks for 2017/18. Deutsche Telekom plans to expand its NB-IoT network in Hamburg to five other cities in Germany (Darmstadt, Duisburg, Dortmund, Merzig and Moers).
There is some divergence in the roll out of IoT in different regions. LTE-M is the main 3GPP IoT technology being deployed by US operators at present whereas NB-IoT will follow. In Europe and Asia, NB-IoT is the first technology deployed: Deutsche Telekom, and Vodafone in Spain and the Netherlands, are early pioneers whereas LTE-M deployments are expected later.
Operators around the world continue to trial and demonstrate LTE-M/Cat-M1 and NB-IoT/Cat-NB1. Since February 2017 we have noted 13 operator trials of 3GPP IoT networks in 11 different countries, in addition to the already launched services and announced launch plans. Applications trialled include smart water and electricity metering, smart city networks and smart parking using LTE-M and VoLTE – NB-IoT does not yet support VoLTE.
Planned NB-IoT and LTE-M Networks:
No. Country Operator Details
- Belgium Orange Planned NB-IoT network in late 2017
- Canada Bell Planned launch of Cat-M1 network in 2018
- Japan KDDI Planned NB-IoT or Cat-M1 network for 2017/18
- Japan Softbank Working with Ericsson to develop NB-IoT/Cat-M1 network
- Mexico AT&T Planned launch of Cat-M1 network by the end of 2017
- Singapore M1 Planned launch of NB-IoT network in 2017
- Singapore Singtel Planned NB-IoT network customer trials in Q3 2017
- Spain Orange Planned NB-IoT network in late 2017
- Switzerland Swisscom Planned launch of NB-IoT and LTE Cat-M1 networks in 2018
- Taiwan Chunghwa Telecom Planned NB-IoT network to be built with Ericsson
- Taiwan Far EasTone Planned NB-IoT network for Q3 2017
- UK EE Planned launch of NB-IoT network in summer 2017
- USA DISH Planned use of 600 MHz spectrum for NB-IoT ne work
- USA Sprint Planned deployment of Cat-M1 in mid-2018
Indoor penetration and rural coverage are key factors for IoT applications and although the 3GPP specifications provides additional coverage, the industry has also developed modules that support spectrum in the sub 1 GHz bands (700/800/900 MHz). Both China Mobile and Vodafone Turkey for example are using 900 MHz band 8 for NB-IoT. Some modules also support higher frequencies, particularly in 1880 and 1900 MHz bands. We expect the range of bands supported to continue to grow, both for Cat-NB1 and Cat-M1.
Use cases being trialled include smart city applications, smart utilty metering, in-building environmental monitoring, and industrial IoT connectivity inside a factory.
The number of devices released for 3GPP IoT networks continues to increase. With the availability of many modules in various form factors, and the huge range of potential applications for LPWA networks, the number of devices will grow very fast.
There are 14 modules supporting only NB-IoT/Cat-NB1; 20 modules supporting only LTE-M/Cat-M1; 16 modules supporting both LTE-MCat-M1 and NB-IoT/Cat-NB1; and 12 chipsets / SoCs / processors supporting LTE-M/Cat-M1, NB-IoT/Cat- NB1 or both.
The IoT ecosystem has multiple companies offering IoT platforms, usually as a service. In addition, many IoT start-up companies have developed their own platform and have sought to offer this to other IoT device manufacturers. The result is a very fragmented IoT platform ecosystem.
There are on-going 3GPP discussions in relation to radio technologies to meet the very low power consumption requirement for LPWA communications, and to reduce the burden on the network from the anticipated huge number of IoT endpoints expected over the next 10-15 years. 3GPP Release 14 includes a study on cellular system support for ultra-low complexity and low throughput Internet of Things. As part of the standards development work, Cat-M2 and Cat-NB2 are likely to offer enhanced location and positioning capabilities.