Narrow Band LTE, or NB-LTE is a new suite of technologies being developed by 3GPP, an international conglomerate of telecommunications company responsible for developing and maintaining the 4G LTE communications standard, among others.
Now, it can be a bit tough to understand what, exactly, narrow band LTE is, so we’re here to help you understand the complex acronyms behind this technology, and explain what it’s used for.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the primary application area of NB-LTE technology.
“Release 13” simply refers to the platform release number of the release – when 3GPP comes up with a new stable communication platform, they release it to the public. Release 13 is one of these releases, and it outlines the basic communication requirements of NB-LTE technology.
NB-LTE is also sometimes referred to as “NB-IoT” or “Narrowband IoT” technology, given its usefulness and many handy applications for the Internet of Things.
Essentially, NB-LTE allows devices to communicate over long distance with cellular networks, without using much bandwidth or power.
This allows devices that usually stay in “sleep mode” or must consume only very small amounts of power to continually communicate with LTE networks – without requiring constant charging and recharging.
The potential benefits of NB-LTE are huge. Constant connectivity and lower power consumption are two of the biggest challenges facing IoT providers – IoT objects of today often become useless outside of WiFi networks, or in areas where they can’t quickly be recharged.
Once NB-LTE is adopted, small devices that only have to communicate with wireless networks infrequently will consume much less power, and could potentially continue functioning without recharging for weeks or months – a marked increase over the IoT technologies of today.
These two technologies are quite similar, but differ in some important ways.
LTE Cat M1 (eMTC) is a higher bandwidth technology, incorporating a 1 Mbps peak downlink and uplink bandwidth rate, and either a full or half duplex system that can allow simultaneous communication. This higher-bandwidth technology allows connectivity of more advanced devices while still minimizing impact on battery life.
LTE Cat NB1, on the other hand, is designed to be very low-powered, with a peak 250 kbps downlink, and a 250 kbps uplink with a multi-tone design, or 20 kbps with a single-tone design. Cat NB1 also supports only half-duplex systems – no simultaneous communication is possible.
Release 13 is very new – the latest release of the 3GPP stable platform, and has brought with it some incredible innovations in Narrow Band LTE. These technologies are still several years away from being incorporated into consumer devices, but once they are, we’re certain to see a total revolution in IoT devices.
The cost of IoT devices will fall, as will power requirements and complexity, allowing IoT device to proliferate using direct LTE connections, rather than WiFi or other connectivity technologies.
This will finally allow the Internet of Things to reach its fullest potential, and it will certainly be interesting to keep an eye on the companies who are working to implement release 13 narrow band LTE technologies into their products, and see their unique visions for the future.