Earlier this month, the standards body 3GPP finalised the specifications for NB-IoT technology. While this may seem like an administrative point, it’s an important step forward in the development of the technology. The standard will act as a common foundation for developers and engineers to design NB-IoT applications, services and systems that work together. For those already testing the technology, they can now accelerate their development programmes with confidence.
The standardised technology can be deployed across networks, using three modes of operation:
- in-band operation - dynamically uses physical resource blocks within an LTE service provider;
- guard band operation - leverages the unused spectrum within the LTE service provider guard band; and
- stand-alone operation - allows for deployment in dedicated spectrum, such as re-farmed GSM and UMTS frequency channels, which provides unparalleled flexibility of deployment.
In trials over the past 12 months, NB-IoT has proved itself to be a simple, flexible, efficient technology with outstanding indoor and outdoor coverage, making it ideal for connecting a vast number of objects to networks. As trials transition to standardised technology, we expect to see the pace of development accelerate.
With the building blocks of the technology now firmly in place, it’s important for the industry to focus on building and supporting the NB-IoT ecosystem.
There are a wide range of factors that make a successful technology ecosystem. Investment, common standards, and access to facilities where products can be developed and tested are all vital elements of any successful ecosystem.
With this in mind, we believe that the NB-IoT open labs programme has a critical role to play in the future of the technology. They will offer an environment where developers can exchange ideas, explore the capabilities of the technology, test how their services or applications will perform in live environments and also get support with more administrative tasks such as compliance certification.
We opened the first NB-IoT open lab in the UK in April and we’ve now started work with Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia on the second lab which will be in Dusseldorf, Germany. The lab, which we plan to open towards the end of 2016, will mirror the facilities in the first lab, providing developers with vital resources, including: live test networks, connectivity models and software development kits.
These labs will be creative and vibrant spaces where ideas can be tested and shared; spaces which could conceivably see the emergence of a brand new category of connected products.
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