With the 3GPP 5G technology being accepted as the ITU IMT-2020 5G technology standard at the ITU-R WP5D conference in July 2020, NB-IoT was officially incorporated into the global 5G standard. This also means that NB-IoT, which is dominated by the Chinese industry chain, has been widely recognized and supported by the global industry chain in practice and has become an important part of 5G.
How much do you know about the history of NB-IoT?
NB-IoT is the abbreviation of Narrow Band Internet of Things in English, and the Chinese interpretation is Narrow Band Internet of Things. It is a low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) broadcast technology developed by 3GPP for large-scale cellular networks and devices. The radio frequency technology uses the license frequency band, which can be deployed in three ways: in-band, guard band, or independent carrier.
Figure | NB-IoT development history, information source: Great Wall Securities Research Institute
As we all know, NB-IoT was first proposed by Huawei and Vodafone (May 2014), which was called the narrowband technology NB M2M at that time, and then evolved into NB-CIoT; in July 2015, Nokia, Ericsson, Intel proposed NB-LTE technology; in September 2015, at the 69th RAN plenary meeting of 3GPP, the two technical specifications of NB-CIoT and NB-LTE were merged into NB-IoT; in June 2016, NB-IoT won the international organization 3GPP Passed, marking the beginning of the commercialization of NB-IoT; the next most important milestone is the incorporation of the NB-IoT mentioned above into the 5G standard.
From the perspective of time, it has only been 7 years since NB-IoT was first proposed. According to statistics, up to now, 71 countries around the world have invested in the construction of 129 mobile Internet of Things, of which 93 are NB-IoT networks. , can definitely be described as “rapid development”.
2G is about to “retire from the group”, and the implementation of NB-IoT will accelerate
Friends may ask, where do these NB-IoT networks land? What are the factors driving the continuous penetration of NB-IoT into the industry? This series of questions, the author found the answer at the “Won” New Opportunity NB-IoT Domestic Internet of Things Solution-Technology Development Summit Forum held on April 22, 2021.
Where do these NB-IoT networks land?
Voice from the operator
Wang Chao, Marketing Director of China Mobile IoT Intelligent Module Department, said, “If the Internet of Things is divided according to the transmission speed, it can be divided into low-speed, medium-speed and high-speed. Among them, high-speed (speed greater than 10Mbps) is mainly used in video surveillance and vehicle-mounted In terms of entertainment, the market accounted for 10%; medium-speed (speed between 1Mbps and 10Mbps) is mainly used in smart wearables, smart POS and IoT gateways, accounting for 30% of the market; and the remaining 60% are low-speed markets ( The speed is less than 100Kbps), which needs to meet the needs of low power consumption and wide coverage. The application fields include smart meters, logistics tracking, smart parking, smart street lights, environmental monitoring and other fields. Originally responsible for covering these mobility and latency requirements, data The communication technology for scenarios with small volume and low power consumption is 2G. However, since the emergence of NB-IoT technology, we have found from the perspective of technical parameters that NB-IoT is better than NB-IoT in terms of coverage breadth, low power consumption and number of connections. 2G is going to be strong (according to the test results, the coverage width of NB-IoT is 164dB, while that of 2G is 144dB; the power consumption of NB-IoT in sleep state is less than 5μA, and the power consumption in standby state is less than 1mA, while the power consumption in shutdown state of 2G is less than 5μA. It consumes about 60μA, and the standby power consumption is about 2mA; in terms of the number of connections, NB-IoT has a 50~100 times increase in uplink capacity than 2G/3G/4G, but the cell capacity exceeds 50,000), so it is considered to be one of the most popular in the domestic market. After 2G technology, it is the main bearer technology for low-speed IoT market business.”
Sharer: Wang Chao, Marketing Director of China Mobile IoT Smart Module Department
“Take China Mobile as an example, our overall IoT number is 680 million, 70-80% of which are 2G services. With the trend of 2G withdrawing from the network, 70-80% will be NB-IoT in the future. Migrate, and the remaining 20-30% will migrate to Cat.1.” Wang Chao added.
Regarding the specific landing situation, in addition to the information from operators, there are also voices from industry alliances and a large number of IoT terminal manufacturers, such as Tianjin Speedy, Jinka Smart, Ningbo Water Meter and Chint Meter.
Voices from industry alliances
Shared by: 5G IoT Industry Alliance Xie Yunzhou
5G IoT Industry Alliance Xie Yunzhou analyzed the development trend of NB-IoT and the issues that need to be paid attention from the perspective of industrial development. He said, “5G is not only a high-speed network, but also a low-power wide-area network. From the evolution trend, NB-IoT -IoT, LTE Cat.1 bis, LTE Cat.4, 5G Sub-6GHz will form a ladder coverage and dominate the development trend of the cellular Internet of Things in the next few years, and this trend is the integration of chips, communication modules, solutions and smart terminals. The integration level will be higher and higher. On the chip side, in addition to the basic function Modem, the SoC will integrate more and more functions according to the needs of the scene, which will gradually compress the technical space of the communication module and penetrate into the turnkey direction step by step; On the group side, there are fewer and fewer peripheral devices that can be integrated, and SiP packaging is gradually challenging the dominance of shielding cans. Affected by this factor, module manufacturers have to work hard on differentiation; on the solution side, the understanding of the industry is different. The realization of solutions is also not the same, it is necessary to have stable products, rich functions, and not too expensive, rely on technological innovation strength before the industry matures, and rely on processing supporting capabilities after large-scale; intelligent terminals, the price pressure is gradually transmitted to the entire In the industry chain, the size of the scissors gap is a major indicator to verify its customer service capabilities. Under these general trends, NB-IoT will continue to integrate other technologies to introduce new ones, such as NB-IoT+GNSS, NB-IoT+TEE SIM, NB-IoT +GPRS and other combinations.”
Regarding the landing coverage of NB-IoT, Xie Yunzhou mentioned, “In 2020, the number of NB-IoT connections will increase by 60 million, and LTE Cat.1 will increase by 15 million. It is expected that by 2021, NB-IoT and LTE Cat.1 will be connected. The number of new additions will reach 100 million and 50 million respectively.”
Voices from smart terminal manufacturers
Sharer: Dong Shenglong, General Manager of Tianjin Suyue
Dong Shenglong, general manager of Tianjin Suyue Technology Co., Ltd., said, “At present, there are 7 companies that have promoted more than 1 million IoT gas meters in China, ranking China Resources Gas (26 million total users), Hong Kong China Gas (31 million total users) ), ENN Energy (11 million total users), China Gas (36 million total users), Beijing Gas (6.44 million total users), Shanghai Gas (6.89 million total users) and Shenzhen Gas (380 total users) It can be seen from the quantity comparison that the penetration rate of smart gas meters is insufficient, and the market space is still very broad. In addition to meter meters, by the end of 2020, my country’s urban gas pipelines have reached about 1 million kilometers, and valve wells have reached more than 4 million. For the safety control and application testing of key links such as gate stations, valve wells, pressure regulating equipment, storage and transportation devices, etc., it is a larger new market space.”
Regarding the problems and opportunities faced, Dong Shenglong said frankly, “The guidance of national policies, the promotion of B-end customers, and the strong willingness of end users are opportunities, but we are also facing insufficient communication coverage, limited network capacity and terminal energy consumption. For problems such as high levels, taking the network capacity as an example, the capacity of 12 users in a sector is simply not enough. For chip manufacturers, the meaning of those few dB is not so big, and solving the problem of power consumption is the top priority. However, The real optimization of NB-IoT should not only be at the device level, but also at the protocol level to support the healthy growth of the low-speed IoT in the gas meter industry.”
Shared by: Ma Libo, Deputy Director of Gold Card Smart Marketing Department
Regarding the performance of NB-IoT in the smart gas meter market, as a witness to the evolution of the entire smart gas meter from IC card to Lora, GPRS, and then to NB-IoT, Ma Libo, deputy director of the Smart Marketing Department of Gold Card, said, “The operation of the gas industry The demand for NB-IoT gave birth to the development of the NB-IoT industry. There is an interesting conclusion in our industry. Who is the most suitable for meter reading? Strong men are not suitable, beautiful girls are not suitable, only middle-aged and elderly women are the most suitable, and today only NB-IoT technology is the most suitable. According to the forecast, my country’s NB-IoT smart gas meter market will reach 30 million units in 2021.”
Shared by: Chen Wei, Technical Director of Ningshui Group
In addition to the gas meter, let’s talk about the water meter. From the original mechanical water meter, the water meter has developed into a multi-technology integration terminal through the changes of smart water meter 1.0 and smart water meter 2.0. In this regard, Chen Wei, technical director of Ningshui Group, said, “The domestic share of smart water meters is 30%, and there is still a lot of room, while the revenue share of Ningshui Group’s smart water meters is 57%, which means that our intelligent The rate is relatively high. In terms of communication methods, our equipment covers RS485, Mod-Bus, Ad Hoc, LoRa, GPRS, NB-IoT and cards (TM, IC, low frequency, high frequency), etc., and our Statistics show that the share of NB-IoT is rising from 2019.”
Sharer: Wang Chunsheng, Deputy Director of Marketing Department of Chint Instruments
In addition, from the perspective of energy management, Wang Chunsheng, deputy director of the market department of Chint Instruments, said, “The current situation of domestic energy management is: difficulty in centralized procurement of three meters, untimely detection of faults, and lack of energy management (such as grid-connected photovoltaic power generation for households) supervision), electric vehicle charging is unsupervised, and it can be partially solved by using NB-IoT.”
He proposed that the energy meter, water meter, gas meter and other smart devices managed by the user form a local Internet of Things through the NB-IoT communication network, which can better obtain relevant data such as electricity, water, and gas in the user’s life, and realize charging. Settlement, equipment detection, abnormal reporting, energy consumption analysis and management and other functions.
What factors are driving the continuous penetration of NB-IoT into the industry?
Dr. Xiao Jianhong, CEO of Xinyi Information Technology, told the author, “NB-IoT is a wide-area Internet of Things. For Bluetooth and WiFi, everyone knows that Tuya is listed on the market. This is a model. With a market value of 100 billion yuan, there is more room for wide-area Internet of Things. , which is equivalent to the relationship between the ocean and the land. We have made a calculation that if the chip develops smoothly, the scale of NB-IoT will reach more than 150 billion by 2025. The reason is that the sinking of the NB-IoT network benefits from the Improvements in product design, such as improved performance and reduced power consumption, are driven by industrial activities, such as China Mobile, while chip companies are at the bottom, making bricks and building high-rise buildings. operator.”
Sharer: Dr. Xiao Jianhong, CEO of Core Wing Information Technology
The author believes that the high-rise buildings mentioned by Mr. Xiao refer to the popularization of NB-IoT networks, including the construction of base stations. According to data shared by Dong Shenglong, general manager of Tianjin Suyue, “At present, my country has built more than 850,000 NB-IoT base stations, including 400,000+ China Telecom, 350,000+ China Mobile, and 100,000-China Unicom.”
In addition, according to the data shared by Wang Chao, Marketing Director of China Mobile IoT Intelligent Module Department, “In terms of NB-IoT network construction, China Mobile has achieved NB-IoT network connectivity coverage in 346 cities and townships and above across the country, with over With 700,000 NB station construction resources, more than 350,000 stations have been opened so far, and 50,000 on-demand station construction resources are planned this year to add value to NB-IoT.”
Based on the coverage of these networks, terminal manufacturers from all walks of life have begun to upgrade their equipment intelligently. And NB-IoT must be driven by “technology + policy + industry” to truly spread out, and there will be a day when commercial use will explode. Above we talked about the driving force of industrial policy, let’s analyze the driving force of policy and technology.
On the policy side, for example, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development issued a document stating that newly installed houses require mandatory installation of smoke detectors; for example, the 14th Five-Year Plan for the water meter industry requires NB-IoT (5G) technology as a key application technology in scenarios such as automatic meter reading of water meters; another example is 2020 In May, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued the “Notice on Further Promoting the Comprehensive Development of Mobile Internet of Things”. The overall goal is to promote the migration of 2G/3G Internet of Things services to private networks. ) and 5G coordinated development of the mobile Internet of Things comprehensive ecosystem, etc.
In response to this change in the smoke detector industry, Xie Yunzhou said, “In 2020, there can only be 5 million smoke detectors, and by 2021, it is expected to exceed 10 million.” And Wang Chao said bluntly that smart fire protection is the smart model of China Mobile Internet of Things. The main direction of the organization this year.
Regarding this mandatory installation policy, Li Jian, senior vice president of Xinyi Information Technology, explained, “Smoke detectors in commercial office buildings must be installed, and many residential buildings are rough houses, which were originally there. The owners went in and directly destroyed them and redecorated them. , I may not feel it myself, but it is actually necessary, and the developer must provide it when the house is handed over. Smart fire protection is not only about smoke, but also fire extinguishers.”
Shared by: Li Jian, Senior Vice President of Core Wing Information Technology
On the technical side, we associate it with price. From the sharing of Xie Yunzhou, we can see that in 2020, the price of NB-IoT communication modules is more than 20 yuan, accounting for about 60% of the market. By 2021, that percentage will drop to about 30 percent, according to his projections. This means that the price of NB-IoT communication modules will continue to decline over time until the market equilibrium price emerges.
What is behind the price drop? The answer is full competition in the market, and the result of the competition is the full localization of NB-IoT modules.
According to the information shared by Ma Libo, Deputy Director of Gold Card Smart Marketing Department, NB-IoT smart terminals have been fully localized, including chips, modules, batteries and base stations. He also shared specific localized manufacturer information:
Chips: Huawei HiSilicon, MediaTek, Ziguang Zhanrui, Xinyi Information, Mobile Core Communication and Zhilian An, etc.
Modules: Quectel, China Mobile, Youfang, Lierda, Meige, Guanghetong, Gosuncn, etc.
Base station: Huawei, ZTE, Datang Mobile, etc.
Battery: Yiwei, Haocheng, etc.
As far as the localization of the lowest-level chips is concerned, Xinyi Information is a rookie manufacturer in the second echelon of the NB-IoT chip industry. Qi Wei, Senior Marketing Director of Core Wing Information Technology, said, “Core Wing Information was established in March 2017. Since the release of the world’s first CMOS PA NB-IoT SoC XY1100 in 2018, it has passed the network access of the three major operators in 2019. The warehousing test, the chip has entered the state of mass production. In the second half of 2020, XY1100 has passed the strict certification test of the leading customers in the smart gas meter and smart water meter industry, and will be shipped on a large scale in terminal products, with monthly shipments More than one million. In addition, XY2100 will be pre-released in the second half of this year, X3100, which is tracked for the financial industry, will be mass-produced in the second half of next year, and the higher-level XY5100 is in the pre-research stage, but the standard has not yet come out, so it is launched No date has been set yet.”
According to the feedback from the application side, the performance of the XY1100 is still very powerful. Ma Libo, deputy director of the Smart Marketing Department of Gold Card, said: Xinyi’s XY1100 has passed the devil-level product introduction test of the downstream manufacturer Gold Card. The success rate of meter reading is 99.68%, and some of the failures are caused by the user having removed the battery. Chen Wei, technical director of Ningshui Group, said: Ningshui Group installed a batch of water meters based on Core Wing XY1100 in Lingang New Area, Shanghai, and the average data upload rate from February to April was 99.41%. Wang Chunsheng, deputy director of the Marketing Department of Chint Instruments, also said: The detection accuracy of the NB-IoT smart meter based on CoreWing XY1100 is about 99.5%.
Summary: Market demand, policy orientation, industry mining, and the advancement of technologies such as Chinese chips are constantly driving NB-IoT technology to penetrate into the application field.
write at the end
In the author’s opinion, behind the acceleration of landing is that NB-IoT has the irreplaceable advantages of technologies such as LoRa and SigFox in the LPWA scenario. Today’s NB-IoT has become the forerunner of 5G, accumulating experience for 5G to B.
As for the fact that NB-IoT will replace 80% of the 2G market mentioned above, the migration speed will not be too fast, there are three reasons: First, many traditional applications themselves run well on 2G, and the scale is very large, allowing all users There is a process of migrating to NB-IoT; second, at present, enterprises do not have a clear timetable for 2G withdrawal from the network, and there may still be a wait-and-see on the network; third, the NB-IoT chip side ecology is not mature enough, it is expected that in addition to the traditional large Outside the chip factory, a group of large industry vertical chip companies will emerge in the future.