Introducing NB-IoT Technologies for Cellular IoT

Digi International Digi International
June 15, 2017

NB-IoT (also referred to as Narrowband IoT or NB1) is another new mobile data standard for the growing LPWA market, part of the latest Release (13) from the 3GPP cellular standards body. Similar to LTE-M, NB-IoT is optimized for lower-bandwidth applications (data rates up to 250Kbps) and ideal for devices that sleep most of the time, waking up to report their data periodically. NB-IoT uses a simple architecture based on single carrier frequency division multiple access and a DSSS modulation scheme, which helps decrease hardware cost and complexity. It supports ultra-long battery life (up to 10 years), extended range (up to 7x better than current LTE technologies) and better building/obstacle penetration for a wide range of applications and use-cases. Some example applications include remote/sleepy industrial sensors, commercial meters, precision agriculture sensors, and a wide range of smart city applications.

NB-IoT is not considered an LTE technology. It branches out of the LTE framework, and can be deployed in a number of different ways, such as:

  • 180 KHz band within the GSM spectrum
  • Within an LTE guard band
  • Independent 200KHz frequency band


Initial NB-IoT deployments in 2017 and 2018 will be primarily in Europe and parts of Asia. Since carriers in the US have already invested heavily in LTE-M infrastructure updates, it is unlikely they will deploy NB-IoT networks in the short-term future.

NB-IoT vs. LTE-M

Key Benefits of NB-IoT

  • Optimized for low-power consumption, even while it is transmitting over the network: Other cellular technologies like LTE-M focus on saving power by sleeping and limiting their transmit time and frequency. NB-IoT excels in its ability to sleep (with support for eDRX) AND minimize power consumption during data transmission, primarily due to the simplified data transmission method and lower data rate, which reduces the need to do power-hungry signal processing and improves the overall efficiency of the system.
  • Less complex radio design with single antenna will be less expensive than other cellular technologies: This will reduce the barrier to entry for new customers and applications to begin integrating low-power cellular technology into their solutions.
  • Improved range and obstacle penetration: With its reduced data rates and simplified radio design, NB-IoT will have stronger link budgets than other cellular technologies, which will lead to greater range/coverage and strong building penetration, great for applications with devices deployed in difficult to reach places.

Digi XBee Cellular NB-IoT

Digi has successfully completed testing of the XBee Cellular NB-IoT in Europe, in partnership with Vodafone. Engineering sample kits are expected to be available by the end of July, customers interested in early testing should contact Digi for more details.

>>Learn how to buy a Digi XBee Cellular Development Kit today with six months of free data.