3GPP signs off on cellular IoT technology

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Low-power wide area technologies within licensed spectrum have taken one step closer after 3GPP completed standardisation of three types of solutions.

Narrowband-IoT, GSM-IoT and LTE-M will cover all types of cellular use cases. The GSMA said the agreement will lead to a greater degree of customer choice as well as encourage growth of the IoT market.

Each type of technology will allow operators to upgrade their existing architecture to run IoT networks. GSM-IoT will use 2G networks, LTE-M will use 4G to support data rates of less than 1MBps and NB-IoT will support rates of less than 150kbps using 2G and LTE.

The GSMA launched a Mobile IoT initiative last year to help the mobile industry agree on the correct standards for enabling IoT networks on licensed spectrum. It was backed by more than 30 operators, device and chipset makers, and vendors.

Alex Sinclair, Chief Technology Officer, GSMA, said: “The GSMA established the Mobile IoT Initiative with the specific purpose of aligning the mobile industry behind common and complementary LPWA technologies in licensed spectrum and we are pleased that the industry has moved so quickly to adopt them and that they have now been ratified by 3GPP.

“Mobile operators have already started a number of pilots around the world and this agreement over common standards will help accelerate the development of commercial solutions and ensure they are in market much faster, providing customers with more choice.”

Telekom Austria was the latest operator to throw its weight behind NB-IoT technology, recently demonstrating it in Vienna. The first commercial networks using this tech are expected next year.

However, some operators have opted for other kinds of technology on unlicensed spectrum, such as LoRa or Sigfox, while the cellular IoT standards were being thrashed out.

Earlier this year, Bouygues Telecom set up a standalone business, Objenious, to explore the development of LoRa technology.