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Comprehensive interpretation of NB-IoT
Source:Original | Author:C&T RF Antennas Inc | Publish time: 2018-11-03 | 4577 Views | Share:

This article will give you a detailed introduction to this brand-new technology, NB-IoT, from the value of its significance, characteristics and advantages, the industry chain it drives, the path of the company's development, and future investment opportunities.


In September 2015, the global communications industry reached consensus on a low-power, wide area coverage (LPWA) IoT standard. The NB-IoT standard came into being. This year, as NB-IoT is about to complete its testing and officially entered the commercial phase, the industry’s attention and discussion about it is gradually heating up.


NB-IoT, what do you think is the Niubility the Internet of Thing? No, NB-IoT refers to Narrow Band - Internet of Things technology.


On June 16, 2016, the NB-IoT technology agreement was approved by the 3GPP Radio Access Network (RAN) Technical Specification Group meeting. It took less than eight months from project approval to agreement freeze to become one of the fastest established 3GPP standards in history. After the completion of performance standards in September and the completion of compliance tests in December, NB-IoT can enter the commercial phase.


First, why does NB-IoT appear?

According to Gartner, a market research institution, 6.4 billion IoT devices will be used worldwide in 2016, and 5.5 million devices will be connected every day. One of the foundations of the “Internet of Everything” is the transmission of data and different types of the Internet of Things. Businesses have different requirements for data transmission capabilities and real-time performance.


According to different transmission rates, the Internet of Things service can be differentiated by high, medium, and low speeds:


High-rate services: Mainly use 3G and 4G technologies, such as vehicle-mounted IoT devices and surveillance cameras. The corresponding service features require real-time data transmission.


Medium-rate services: The GPRS technology is mainly used, such as the storage cabinets of residential communities or supermarkets. The use frequency is high but not real-time. The requirements for network transmission speed are far lower than those for high-rate services.


Low-rate services: The industry has summarized the low-rate service market into the LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) market, which is a low-power wide area network. Currently, there is no corresponding cellular technology. In most cases, it is supported by GPRS technology, which brings with it high costs and low rates of low-speed services.


In other words, the current low-rate business market is in urgent need of development, and the low-rate business market is actually the largest market, such as fire extinguishers in buildings and various monitors used in scientific research. The frequency of such equipment in life is very low. However, the total number of collections is very impressive. The collection of these data is used for various purposes, such as improving the configuration of urban equipment.


The NB-IoT is a new narrowband cellular communication LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) technology that can help us solve this problem.


Second, what are the advantages of NB-IoT?


As a technology applied to low-rate services, the advantages of NB-IoT are not hard to imagine:

Strong links: In the same base station scenario, NB-IoT can provide 50-100 times more access than existing wireless technologies. One sector can support 100,000 connections, supporting low latency sensitivity, ultra-low device cost, low device power consumption, and optimized network architecture. For example, due to the limited bandwidth, operators only open 8-16 access ports for each router in the home. In a home, there are often multiple mobile phones, laptops, and tablet computers. The need for networking of hundreds of sensing devices has become a thorny problem. The NB-IoT is enough to easily meet the networking needs of a large number of devices in future smart homes.


High coverage: The indoor coverage of NB-IoT is strong, and its gain is 20dB higher than that of LTE, which is equivalent to 100 times more coverage area. Not only can it meet the demand for a wide coverage in rural areas, but it also applies to applications such as plant sites, underground garages, and well covers that require deep coverage. Take manhole cover monitoring as an example. In the past, the GPRS method needed to extend an antenna, which could easily cause damage to vehicles. However, as long as NB-IoT is properly deployed, it can solve this problem.


Low power consumption: Low power consumption is an important indicator of IoT applications, especially for some equipment and occasions where batteries cannot be replaced frequently, such as various types of sensing and monitoring equipment installed in remote areas of mountainous wilderness. Once the smartphone is charged on a daily basis, the battery life of up to several years is the most essential requirement. NB-IoT focuses on small-data-rate and low-rate applications, so the power consumption of NB-IoT devices can be very small, and the device lifetime can be significantly increased over the past few months to several years.


Low-cost: Compared to LoRa, NB-IoT does not need to be rebuilt, and RF and antennas are basically multiplexed. Taking China Mobile as an example, there is a relatively wide frequency band at 900 MHz. It is only necessary to clear out a portion of the 2G frequency band, and it is possible to directly deploy LTE and NB-IoT simultaneously. Low speed, low power consumption and low bandwidth also bring low-cost advantages to NB-IoT chips and modules. The expected price of the module does not exceed $5.


However, NB-IoT still has its own limitations. In terms of cost, the NB-IoT module is expected to fall within 5 US dollars in the future, but currently, the price of chips supporting Bluetooth, Thread, and ZigBee is only around US$2. The price of chips supporting only one of the standards is less than 1. The huge price gap will undoubtedly create concerns for companies deploying NB-IoT.


In addition, most of the Internet of Things scenarios such as smart door locks, data monitoring, etc. do not require real-time wireless networking. They only need near-field communication or can be completed through wired methods. Is NB-IoT good value for money?


Third, NB-IoT's industrial chain

Compared with traditional industries, the industrial ecology of the Internet of Things is relatively large and needs to be analyzed from the two dimensions of vertical industry chain and horizontal technical standards.


For the low-power wide area network, from the vertical perspective, a complete industrial chain has been formed from the "bottom chip-module-terminal-operator-application".


Among them, the chip is at the core of the entire industry chain of NB-IoT, and now almost all mainstream chip and module manufacturers have a clear NB-IoT support plan.


Huawei's acquisition of the company's Neul chip is implemented earlier, and there are already test samples; Qualcomm's chips are expected to be released in the fourth quarter of 2016, and Qualcomm’s chips are NB-IoT and eMTC dual-mode chips; Intel’s chips are expected to The first batch of chips will be provided in the quarter, but mainly based on testing, commercial chips will be released early next year; MTK's chips are also under research and development, and will be released in the first half of next year; ZTE Microelectronics and Datang chips are also in development. among.


Here we select Huawei and Qualcomm to talk specifically. Why should you choose these two? Because of the evolution of the NB-IoT standard, Huawei and Qualcomm played a very important role. The current NB-IoT evolved from the solution NB-CIoT produced by Huawei and Qualcomm. (Details everyone can own Baidu)


1, Huawei

As Huawei, an active participant in NB-IoT, NB-IoT is a big strategy and it is said that all Huawei departments are actively involved.


In fact, as early as 2014, Huawei spent US$25 million to acquire the UK’s leading provider of cellular the Internet of Things chips and solutions, Neul, and also planned to build a global-level Internet of Things centered on Neul.


As expected, after the announcement of the standard, Neul will soon launch NB-IoT commercial chips at the end of this month. This will be the industry's first commercial NB-IoT chip, and its price will be closer to the price of short-range communications chips.


It is reported that Huawei's NB-IoT chip integrates BB and AP, Flash, and battery management within the size of a coin, and reserves sensor integration capabilities. The AP contains three ARM-M0 cores. Each M0 core is responsible for the application, security, and communication functions. This facilitates functional management while reducing costs and power consumption. The subsequent chips will also integrate Soft SIM, further reducing cost.


In addition, after the first batch of chips is available at the end of September, Huawei will also provide the first batch of commercial modules in cooperation with Ublox and China Mobile. The commercial modules will be released in mid-to-late or late October. The amount provided in the first batch is not large, and the large-scale commercial use will be started early next year.


In addition to chips, Huawei's layout in the NB-IoT field is full-coverage.


At this year's World Mobile Games IoT Summit, Huawei officially released an end-to-end NB-IoT solution for the world, which includes: Intelligent terminal solutions enabled by Huawei Lite OS and NB-IoT chips, and smoothly evolved to NB- IoT eNodeB base station, IoT Packet Core that can support flexible deployment of Core in a Box or NFV slice, IoT connection management platform based on cloud architecture and big data capability, etc., meet the low power consumption and wide area coverage of carrier IoT service. Core requirements.


In addition, at the second China NB-IoT Industry Alliance Summit held last month, Xu Haiping, Huawei’s NB-IoT project leader, expressed that Huawei’s open laboratory will be better developed for NB-IoT. End-to-end business services. "Since this year, Huawei has established seven open laboratories around the world, and now it has opened two, one is Vodafone and the other is Huawei's Institute of Research. The open lab is mainly to build a complete set of end-to-end NB-IoT. Environment, to provide NB-IoT chips and modules, and with some closely related partners to do end-to-end docking, including chip module integration, back-end connection management platform, business server docking, etc.. Vodafone's open The laboratories are mainly targeted at European partners. Shanghai's laboratories are mainly aimed at China, and an open lab will be established in South Korea in September. Italy and other countries will also advance.


2. Qualcomm

Qualcomm believes that in the next five years, from the perspective of the Internet of things, LTE is still the basis for development. The NB-IoT introduced under 3GPP Release 13 will continue to evolve with the development of 3GPP. The low-cost and low power consumption required for the large-scale Internet of Things (Massive IoT) will rely on LTE NB-IoT technology to promote the cellular connection. Its development lays the foundation for the development of 5G technology for the Internet of Things.


Qualcomm launched the MDM 9x07 at the beginning of this year, supports Cat 4 up to 150Mbps; the other is MDM 92071, supporting the Cat 1 standard; and last October launched MDM 9206, supporting CatM1, and later through software upgrades to support NB- IoT. Module OEMs are expected to release modules based on MDM 9206 and Cat M1 in early 2017. Support for Cat NB1 is expected to be implemented through software upgrades soon after this.


In addition, in the current Release 13, NB-IoT does not support VoLTE, but in the future Release 14, Qualcomm will try to increase voice support. As NBIoT continues to evolve, Qualcomm hopes to lay the groundwork for IoT standards that are applicable to 5G.


After speaking about the chip manufacturers, the operators are described below.

Since last year, a number of mainstream operators including China, Korea, Europe, the Middle East, and North America have conducted pilots based on pre-standard NB-IoT technology and started end-to-end technical and business verification.


1. China Telecom

China Telecom is actively following up on the development of NB-IoT technology and has officially initiated the research and development of NB-IoT key technologies, terminals and services. In the specific deployment scenario, NB-IoT will be deployed based on the full-coverage 800M LTE network; the base station also supports LTE, NB-IoT and 800MLTE base stations to share baseband, radio frequency, and antenna resources. At the same time, in order to avoid possible frequency interference, and consider the flexibility of the subsequent evolution of the LTE800, priority is given to the independent mode of operation.


In addition, at the "2016 Tianyi Intelligent Terminal Trade Fair" held in July this year, China Telecom united Qualcomm, Huawei, ZTE, Intel, Bosch, SAP, IBM, Ericsson, Shenzhen Venture Capital, Shanghai Institute of Microsystems, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Beiyou. The 12 units of Southeast University jointly initiated the establishment of “Tianyi Wulian Industry Alliance”.


2, China Mobile

For China Mobile, its public IoT platform has been in commercial use since the end of November 2014. As of June this year, users have exceeded 27 million. At present, China Mobile is accelerating the promotion of the global convergence of standards and narrow-band IoT industry maturity and IoT application innovation, building an IoT open laboratory to promote the mature development of chips and modules, and creating a low-cost, low power consumption, wide coverage, and high Reliable public Internet of Things, and strive to achieve commercial use in 2017. In order to build the NB-IoT Internet of Things, China Mobile is expected to obtain an FDD license from the end of 2016 to mid-2017, and will allow it to re-tune the existing 900MHz and 1800MHz frequency bands.


3, China Unicom

In July 2015, China Unicom established and opened the world’s first NB-IoT new technology demonstration site; in the first half of 2016, Shanghai Disney IoT started commercial use; in 2015-2016, piloted and tested NB-IoT service, and currently, The NB-IoT commercial deployments in key cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Yinchuan, Changsha, and Fuzhou) are being promoted, and they are planned to be commercialized in 2017. In 2018, they will begin to fully promote commercial deployments within the country.


China Unicom is deployed in the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands for NB-IoT and VoLTE. Using DSSS dynamic spectrum solution at 900 MHz, 5MHz bandwidth LTE is deployed in 1800MHz continuous coverage area. In the area without continuous coverage of 1800MHz, the bandwidth is automatically narrowed down to 3MHz, but the center frequency remains unchanged and both sides are free. Spectrum, automatic deployment of 14 GSM frequency points.


From a horizontal perspective, there are manufacturers of different technical standards such as NB-IoT, LoRa, Sigfox, ZETA, and Ingenu in each link of the industry chain.


Speaking of these, we have to revisit the previous LPWAN. NB-IoT, LoRa, Sigfox, ZETA, Ingenu are all branches of LPWAN.


Lora, Sigfox, etc., belong to technologies that work in unlicensed bands. Most of these technologies are non-standard and custom implementations; while more mature 2G/3G cellular communications technologies such as GSM, CDMA, and WCDMA are technologies that operate in licensed bands. This type of technology is basically defined by the international standards organizations such as 3GPP (major standards that set GSM, WCDMA, LTE and its evolution technologies) or 3GPP2 (which mainly establish CDMA related standards).


In the field of low-level chips, as we all know, current Huawei Hass, Qualcomm, Intel, MTK, ZTE Microelectronics, Datang, Spreadtrum and other manufacturers have NB-IoT chip R & D plans and implementation steps, the original LTE chip capabilities manufacturers can Participation cannot form the monopoly of most of the top 2-3 markets, but due to the limited number of manufacturers in this area, it will not form a large number of market participants, and the market concentration will remain below 50%; while in LoRa In the camp, the current RF chip supply is concentrated in a Semtech company, which occupies the majority of market share, thus forming a market concentration of more than 80%.


In the module link, due to the advantages of the channel, technology, and scale, many NB-IoT module shipments should be in the hands of manufacturers that originally owned the 2G/3G/LTE module product line. This group is relatively large. In addition, some new manufacturers have entered the field, and thus cannot form a high degree of market concentration. Among the LoRa module groups, the original manufacturers are mostly small and medium-sized enterprises. Under the increasing number of LoRa applications, there are still Many manufacturers entered the market, making the entire market relatively competitive, with low market concentration.


In the terminal segment, because low-power wide-area network communication technologies are needed by a large number of industries and consumer terminals, and the types of terminals are various, it is impossible to form a market where a small number of enterprises have the large-scale terminals. Therefore, the terminal market is extremely fragmented and the market is concentrated. The degree is lower.


In the area of communications equipment and platforms, because communication equipment manufacturers such as Huawei, Ericsson, ZTE, and Nokia are core participants and promoters of the NB-IoT standard, these mainstream equipment manufacturers occupy the vast majority of market share in the cellular communications market. In the commercial use of NB-IoT, it will inevitably occupy an overwhelming majority of shares. It can be said that the market concentration at this stage is relatively high, which may reach more than 80%; and for LoRa, a large number of SMEs are involved in the beginning. LoRa base station equipment and management platform R & D and production, currently, have a lot of vendors with overall program delivery capabilities, and therefore can not form a high degree of market concentration, and in China's ZTE launched the China LoRa Application Alliance (CLAA) launched a sharing model or in The degree of concentration of equipment and platforms will be increased to a certain extent, but it will still not achieve the high concentration of NB-IoT at this stage.


In the operator segment, the mainstream operators will definitely deploy and operate the NB-IoT network. In other words, the future NB-IoT network operation will still be concentrated in the hands of the three major operators, so the market concentration in this area is 100%; For LoRa network operations, due to the diversified needs of users in various government and industry sectors, multiple types of operators may emerge in the future, including CLAA's cross-border cloud network operators and industrial-grade network operations. Business, corporate private network operators, etc., so the market concentration is very low.


As for the application link, both NB-IoT and LoRa networks have to face thousands of diversified application needs. These applications of the Internet of Things cannot be formed as the hundreds of millions of homogenized application services in the traditional communication era, but they are characterized by fragmentation. There are also very different requirements in the same industry at the instant. Therefore, the application link will not form a high market concentration situation.


In summary, it is very obvious that many links in the industry chain of NB-IoT have a high level of market concentration, and it can be seen that this area is dominated by giants; the LoRa industry chain has a high degree of market concentration on-chip links, and other links All are the forms of a large number of participants.


Fourth, NB-IoT market investment opportunities

At present, the NB-IoT market is hotly hyped, and the industrial chain also contains many different hardware: chips, modules, terminal equipment, etc. It can be said that there are great opportunities for various levels of corporate and industrial capital. Throughout these investment opportunities, DR Jun thinks the following two venture capital areas are worthy of attention:


1, the sensor

NB-IoT has undoubtedly promoted the industrial ecology of the Internet of Things, allowing sensors to penetrate into market segments and bring huge business opportunities. The global sensor industry will have a market size of nearly 300 billion U.S. dollars by 2020, and some brokerage firms believe that Chinese companies will occupy a one-third share of the 100 billion sensor market, and the development space is huge.


2, application

Although the underlying hardware is very important, it really allows these devices to play a value-added effect, reflect the value of data and the value of benefit-sharing, or the application software that needs to be developed for specific service purposes. These are huge markets in the future and will enter this field. The industry and capital provide greater opportunities.


Compared to entertainment and performance-oriented IoT applications, NB-IoT is targeted at low-end IoT terminals and is more suitable for wide deployment. It is used in smart homes, smart cities, and smart production represented by smart meter reading, smart parking, and smart tracking. The application will shine.


The number of mobile terminals for human-to-human communication has seen a rise in the number of ceilings, and object-to-object communication has only just begun. We believe that with the landing of NB-IoT, the Internet of Things will develop rapidly and the application prospects will be vastly vast. The boundless value that is bound to come.