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NB-IoT
Driving the LPWA Industry Forward

NB-IoT Driving the LPWA Industry Forward

What Is NB-IoT?

Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) is a leading cellular, low power wide area (LPWA) technology developed to empower a wide range of IoT devices and services. It represents the next intelligent paradigm for 5G, endowing devices (smart meters, smart streetlights, white goods, and others) used in a diverse array of applications such as smart home, smart mobility, smart city services, and smart agriculture, with connected attributes. By 2020, there were more than 100 million NB-IoT connections across the globe. This number is expected to increase exponentially, and surpass the 1 billion mark by 2025.

Smart city and
industrial devices

Smart city and industrial devices

Smart home
devices

Smart home devices

NB-IoT Evolution into 5G mMTC

NB-IoT Evolution into 5G mMTC

Coexistence between NB and NR Interoperability with legacy devices

Access to 5GC
Ensures end-to-end service continuity

5G LPWA based on
evolving NB-IoT/LTE-M

NB-IoT: Go-to Solution for LPWAN

NB-IoT: Go-to Solution for LPWAN

The advent of NB-IoT technology unlocks new possibilities for Cellular IoT (C-IoT) applications.
C-IoT defined under the 3GPP umbrella harnesses the power of carrier networks to enable IoT connections, facilitating greater affordability, mobility, and compatibility. With the increasing adoption of IoT across industries, C-IoT is already shaping up to be the most significant WAN technology. C-IoT usage cases can be classified as low-speed (kbit/s), medium-speed (Mbit/s), or high-speed (Gbit/s) services, depending on access speed and power requirements. Low-speed LPWA services dominate the C-IoT category with a whopping 60% of total volume.

• Traditional C-IoT services were mainly carried out on 2G or 3G networks. However, the high amount of power consumption was a drawback, hindering industrial applications, especially in battery-operated scenarios, including smart metering (such as water and gas), tracking, and logistics. Since 2016, NB-IoT has taken off as a major LPWAN player, by offering in-depth coverage, high power efficiency, and low costs, thereby accommodating needs in battery-operated scenarios.

• NB-IoT has also established itself as the technology of choice for 2G IoT services. On the one hand, as carriers race to construct 5G networks, 2G and 3G networks will eventually be phased out to improve spectral efficiency and lower costs required to maintain multi-RAT networks. On the other hand, NB-IoT has outperformed 2G in terms of speeds and mobility, and without the crippling power efficiency. In 2020, NB-IoT adoption gained ground in a multitude of different applications, from metering, smoke detection, agriculture, environment monitoring, and white goods, to location tracking. As it continues to gain momentum, NB-IoT is now on track to become the standard technology for 5G mMTC.

• As NB-IoT evolves to accommodate a growing number of industrial demands, it will unleash turbocharged growth, and facilitate accelerated intelligence across the IoT ecosystem.

NB-IoT Benefits

low power

10-year battery life

Support for PSM/eDRX/long-term TAU, up to 10 year service life for water meters

in-depth coverage

20 dB gain

20 dB coverage enhancement over GPRS

massive connections

50,000 connections per cell*

50,000 devices per network cell

low cost

Cost-effective modules

Cost savings brought by simplified chipset and peripheral circuit designs

HiSilicon is a leader in NB-IoT technology and a major promoter of NB-IoT standards within the industry. HiSilicon has blazed a new trail in NB-IoT R&D, driving the implementation of industry standards, technological innovation, and a broader range of commercial applications. It is committed to joining forces with partners to build an open and robust NB-IoT ecosystem. In 2016, in the wake of the freezing of Release 13, HiSilicon rolled out the Boudica 120, the first-ever NB-IoT chipset on the market, helping module vendors and industry customers apply IoT solutions on a commercial scale. Thus far, HiSilicon NB-IoT Boudica series chipsets have made their way into tens of millions of devices in fields such as smart metering, smart firefighting, and asset tracking, and millions of devices in fields including door locks, white goods, logistics, and streetlights. HiSilicon and partners are still looking for new ways to harness the full potential of the Boudica, such as deploying it in agriculture, wearables, payment, and sharing economy.


While the NB-IoT technology looks promising, signalized by the rapid number of new applications and the exponential growth of IoT devices, it is not without its challenges. Suppliers need to address how to reduce deployment costs through technology evolution, how to improve power efficiency for large-scale networking, and how to ensure data security in a fully-connected world.

NB-IoT Challenges

Power Efficiency

Power efficiency is a top concern in the IoT world. Smart meters are powered by non-replaceable batteries, and cannot be recharged often. This means that their efficacy largely hinges on battery life. NB-IoT chipsets must be more power efficient to enable meters to operate longer.

Maintenance

Smart meter maintenance is a race against time, as it moves the needle on consumer electricity, gas, and water usage. In addition, this maintenance can be expensive and time consuming. Therefore, a near-field, wireless approach must be set in place to implement remote diagnosis, maintenance, and updating without the need to revisit meters.

Device Security

As NB-IoT adoption gains ground, the industry is increasingly concerned about the device security. In the IoT fields, especially where billing and payment are involved, such as smart metering, malicious attacks can cause significant loss or damage to carriers and consumers.

Network Adaptation

NB-IoT devices are provided by different manufacturers, and subject to irregular network updates and reconstruction. In addition, IoT environments can be tremendously demanding, with adverse factors such as obstructions and interference the norm. All of these factors require that NB-IoT devices ship with high network adaptability.

Better Integration, Lower Cost

A compact module packed with 50% fewer components

boudica200

The PA, PMU, RAM, flash memory, SIM card, and certain passive RF components are wedged into the chipset, reducing the number of peripheral components by 50%.

NB-IoT module

NB-IoT draws on a comprehensive OpenCPU solution, which reduces the costs of external MCU and crystal components in meter applications.

Chipset-Level Low-Power Design
Ups the Battery Game

PSM(Power Saving Mode)

The UE enters PSM when it is
not transmitting or receiving data.

eDRX(Extended DRX)

In eDRX mode, the UE receives signals only in the paging time window (PTW), and enters deep sleep state during other time frames.

Long Periodic TAU

The number of periodic TAUs is effectively reduced.


Chipset-Level Low-Power Design Decreases Power Consumption by 50%

Retains RAM refresh in PSM

  • Faster wakeup from PSM
  • Streamlined hardware design: allows wakeup using serial port AT commands, without the need for an extra startup signal
  • No need to frequently read the flash memory when entering or exiting the PSM, minimizing the impact on the flash memory service life

Ships with highly efficient PMU and PA, reducing transmit power consumption

Refines RF receiver circuits and algorithms, greatly reducing the receive current

Optimizes the mechanisms of receiving data in idle state and switching between idle and connected states, lowering the idle state current

Chipset-Level Low-Power Design Decreases Power Consumption by 50%
smart metering battery life increase 20% wearables battery lift increase 10% smart parking battery life increase 16%

BLE 5.0 Effectively Facilitates NB-IoT Maintenance and Testing

· Greater performance and value, thanks to a seamless blend of NB-IoT
and BLE

· Higher maintenance and testing efficiency on top of the BLE-based E2E solution

· Differential FOTA update
· BLE configuration by running AT commands
· Diagnostics informed by exported maintenance and test information

· Extended battery life enabled by BLE

BLE 5.0 Effectively Facilitates NB-IoT Maintenance and Testing

Chipset-Level Security Assurance with Independent Security CPU

Security subsystem

Security subsystem

Physically isolates the RAM and ROM hardware from the application and protocol subsystems to ensure airtight security.

Hardware encryption engine

Hardware encryption engine

Offers high-performance encryption, for enhanced privacy and security.

Secure boot

Secure boot

Provided in the on-chip boot ROM, conducts signing and signature verification through multi-level certificates to help ensure that only trusted firmware can load.

Secure storage

Secure storage

Manages encryption keys in the security subsystem, and allows the security subsystem to communicate with the application and protocol subsystems via the hardware mailbox, to implement secure storage of private data.

Secure transmission

Secure transmission

Delivers TLS and DTLS hardware acceleration to ensure communications security.

Secure update

Secure update

Offers signature and signature verification for update files as well as basic capabilities such as anti-rollback.

Secure applications

Secure applications

Supports the SoC SIM functions and Deutsche Telekom nuSIM standard to improve application security.

Renowned Adaptability and Reliability,
Tested Across a Multitude of Live Networks

The HiSilicon NB-IoT solution has been widely embraced in a diverse array of global fields, including smart metering, smoke detection, bicycles, door locks, geomagnetic sensors, and smart agriculture. It's equipped to handle wide-ranging complex network environments, and power smarter and more reliable services.

Industrial Applications

Related Products

Boudica 200

Highly integrated and low-power NB-IoT Cat-NB1/Cat-NB2 chipset

Boudica 150

NB-IoT Cat-NB1/Cat-NB2

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*Note: Data is calculated based on the traffic models defined by 3GPP.