Narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) is a type of LPWAN technology standard developed by the Third Generation Partner Project (3GPP) to address the requirements of IoT. It has the capability to enable a wide range of IoT devices and services. According to a recent GSM Association report, the technology can be deployed in-band, utilising resource blocks within a normal LTE carrier; or in the unused resource blocks within an LTE carrier’s guard-band; or stand-alone in dedicated spectrum. The technology provides improved indoor coverage and can support a large number of low-throughput devices. Owing to these advantages, NB-IoT is best suited for connecting devices on existing mobile networks and is ideal for applications that communicate small amounts of data over long periods of time. The long-range connectivity of the technology provides users greater flexibility in terms of choice of stationing the devices. Of late, there has been an increase in the uptake of NB-IoT deployment across the globe.

According to a recent study by Grand View Research, the global NB-IoT market size is expected to reach $6.02 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34.9 per cent from 2019 to 2025. The Asia-Pacific region is expected to register the highest CAGR owing to the rapidly growing demand for wearables and smartphones in line with continued urbanisation and various smart city initiatives being undertaken. Moreover, the growing commercialisation of upcoming connected and autonomous vehicles is expected to play a key role in driving the growth of the NB-IoT market over the forecast period.

Regional update

Thailand is leading the NB-IoT revolution in the Southeast Asia (SEA) market with over 50 NB-IoT networks deployed in 40 industries. In October 2019, Thailand-based Sigfox deployed its IoT network technology in the country, in partnership with Things on Net, a subsidiary of Platt Nera. As part of this initiative, the company has committed to setting up 1,400 base stations nationwide by 2020 to cover 85 per cent of the population.

Singapore is fast emerging as the epicentre and hub of IoT technology in the SEA region as infrastructure has been laid to support IoT deployments in both the public and private sectors. According to data from Analysys Mason, the total IoT revenue in Singapore is projected to reach $714 million in 2025, of which connectivity and services will account for $95 million and applications for $349 million. The remaining $270 million will come from hardware and installation.

Malaysia too has been quite active on the NB-IoT front. In January 2020, Maxis entered into a partnership with the Sarawak Multimedia Authority for collaboration on NB-IoT. This deal has three focus areas – co-developing expertise on the proven applications of IoT (including NB-IoT) concepts, partnering on the design, development and implementation of IoT/NB-IoT solutions, and developing a strong ecosystem via lab set-up support with specialist support resources to build sustainable and smart solutions. Other Malaysian telecom operators too have been quick to jump on the NB-IoT bandwagon. Celcom Axiata, in collaboration with Xperanti, is working towards boosting IoT connectivity across the country. Xperanti has already achieved over 85 per cent network coverage in Malaysia and aims to take this to over 95 per cent in 2020.

In Indonesia, Sigfox Indonesia officially launched its “0G” Sigfox-based IoT network in February 2020. The network is being rolled out in phases. As part of Phase I, the Sigfox network is being made available in the Greater Jakarta area and Bandung. Earlier, in October 2019, Hutchison 3 Indonesia, in partnership with Nokia, introduced a platform that provides IoT coverage to enterprises in various sectors. Meanwhile, XL Axiata commercially launched its NB-IoT network in 31 cities and districts under its XL Business Solutions division. Going forward, the operator intends to expand the 900 MHz NB-IoT network across the country.

Vietnam too has been making progressive strides in the NB-IoT space. In September 2019, Viettel launched an NB-IoT network in Ho Chi Minh City. As part of the launch, the operator deployed 1,000 base stations to cover the entire city. The operator also committed to covering 100 per cent of Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, with NB-IoT, and rolling out the network in Da Nang. It plans to expand coverage across the country in the next two years. In addition to rolling out a nationwide NB-IoT network, Viettel is focusing on IoT applications such as smart cities, smart homes, environmental monitoring and remote electricity metering.

By Diksha Sharma