NB-IoT: licensed to grow

The diversity of IoT application requirements has led to the adoption of different cellular-based, licensed 3GPP standards like Long-Term Evolution for Machines (LTE-M) and Narrowband-Internet of Things (NB-IoT). These licensed-spectrum technologies can provide the low throughput, deep coverage, and low power consumption for very long battery life (10-20 years) that traditional cellular standards simply can’t offer. 

Of these, the NB-IoT standard is particularly promising. Optimized for low throughput, it can support the huge number of devices transferring small, intermittent blocks of data that are found in the majority of IoT applications. Even indoor coverage for nodes like utility meters located deep in basements is not a problem.

Compared to LPWA devices in the unlicensed spectrum, NB-IoT technology isn't as affected by interference because it operates in the licensed spectrum. With just a software upgrade, NB-IoT can even be configured on an LTE network. The capacity of NB-IoT is also immense, with a single cell connecting 50,000 to 100,000 devices. And as NB-IoT devices are not complex, their prices will remain competitive, especially with rising demand.

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Requiring just 200 kHz of bandwidth, NB-IoT supports uplink and downlink rates of around 200kbps. You also get all the benefits associated with existing cellular networks. These range from carrier grade reliability to privacy and security, including support for user identity confidentiality, entity authentication, confidentiality, data integrity, and mobile equipment identification.


3GPP Release


Downlink Peak Rate

250 kbps

Uplink Peak Rate

250 kbps (multi-tone)
20 kbps (single-tone)

Duplex Mode

Half Duplex

No. of Antennas


Device Receive Bandwidth

180 kHz

Receiver Chains

1 (Single In / Single Out)

Device Transmit Power

23 dBm


164 dB

Table 1: NB-IoT Specifications


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