Ericsson, Aalto researchers develop early NB-IoT proof of concept

Ericsson R&D
Source: Ericsson

Researchers from Ericsson Research and Aalto University in Finland have developed an early proof of concept implementation of narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), demonstrating over-the-air transmission a couple weeks ago.

The implementation involves a Cloud RAN (C-RAN) architecture where protocol handling and radio access network (RAN) functionality is moved to a cloud computing infrastructure, according to a blog post by Anna Larmo and Johan Torsner of Ericsson Research in Finland.

In the demonstration, all the NB-IoT protocol functions, including physical layer processing, are performed on standard Linux PCs and the RF processing is performed in software defined radio units.The NB-IoT standard has three deployment options: Standalone operation, guard band operation and in-band operation.

In the demonstration, NB-IoT in standalone mode was run in a GSM carrier borrowed from the Finnish mobile operator DNA. “This is possible since the bandwidth of the NB-IoT signal is only 180 kHz, less than the 200 kHz GSM carriers,” the researcher wrote. “Re-farming GSM spectrum in this way can be an attractive way for operators to support IoT devices.”

The team also showed how NB-IoT can run on a test frequency in the 630 MHz band as well as in the 2.4 GHz ISM band used by, for example, Wi-Fi. The transmitted data was generated with a simple IoT sensor application gathering temperature, air-pressure and humidity data. The information was then periodically transmitted together with the sensor’s GPS position over an NB-IoT radio link and collected in the cloud.

3GPP ratified the NB-IoT standard in June. It’s designed to provide low device complexity, low battery consumption and substantially increased coverage compared to earlier 3GPP technologies, with commercial releases expected later this year.  

In the U.S., Verizon has committed to deploying LTE Category M1 by the end of this year, saying it will be the first U.S. operator to launch the technology. Ericsson is among Verizon’s vendor partners in the Cat M1 segment, along with Altair, Sequans, U-Blox, Telit, Sierra Wireless, Gemalto and Nokia.

A lot of other non-cellular-based technologies, including those from Sigfox and LoRa, are competing in the IoT segment, and they’re already begun offering services.

But Ericsson pointed out in a white paper that when it comes to scalability, cellular networks are built to handle massive volumes of mobile broadband traffic. Operation in licensed spectrum also provides predictable and controlled interference, which enables efficient use of the spectrum to support massive volumes of devices.

While competing unlicensed low-power wide area (LPWA) technologies are designed solely for very low-end machine-type communication applications, cellular networks can address everything from massive to critical IoT use cases, Ericsson said. QoS, along with licensed spectrum, provides a foundation for long-term Service Level Agreements with a specific grade of service.

The Ericsson research team said that in the future,  stakeholders will explore the potential of the C-RAN architecture and evaluate the performance of NB-IoT through measurements.

For more:
- see this Ericsson blog

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