NB-IoT 5G: Relation, Differences, and Applications

NB-IoT 5G: Relation, Differences, and Applications
NB-IoT 5G Relation, Differences, and Applications


5G, the 5th generation cell phone action communication standard, is also known as the 5th generation search mobile communication technology. NB-IoT, the cellular-based narrowband Internet of Things. Today, the ecology around NB-IoT has taken initial shape and is continuously expanding, and the conditions for embracing the Internet of Everything are beginning to mature. With the development of 5G communication technology and the maturity of specialized technologies such as IoT, the social demand for the Internet of Everything is increasing. NB-IoT is one of the key technologies of IoT, but many people don’t understand what relationship exists between 5G and NB-IOT, so we will talk about their relationship in this article.

I. Overview of 5G

The 5G commercial era has come. In order to improve operational efficiency and release inefficient resources, 2G and 3G will be gradually phased out of the network. Under the trend of 2G and 3G technology disconnecting, various industries are making efforts to adopt NB-IoT technology to replace 2G IoT. Currently, more than 20 operators around the world have already shut down their 2G or 3G networks, and Chinese operators have also started and are preparing for phasing out 2G and 3G services. In 2020, 3GPP officially submitted standard proposals for 5G candidate technologies to the International Telecommunication Union(ITU). NB-IoT technology has now been submitted to the ITU-R as part of 5G and has been formally included in the 5G candidate technology set.

3GPP has defined 3 major directions for 5G application scenarios – uRLLC (Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications), eMBB (Enhanced Mobile Broadband), and mMTC (Massive Machine Type Communication). These 3 main sections are used to address different issues.

– eMBB: faster Internet access and greater data throughput.

– URLLC: lower communication latency, down to 1m/s.

– mMTC: large connection standard, solving the problems being faced by NB-IoT and eMTC.

When we mentioned mMTC, we have to mention IoT (Internet of Things). IoT has been widely used in 4G era and people must be familiar with it. Among many IoT technologies, NB-IoT IoT technology is undoubtedly one of the mainstream technologies in the country today. However, from the development of 4G, NB-IoT does not have a very perfect business model yet. We find that the requirements for the working direction of mMTC in the 5G standard are highly compatible with the working characteristics of NB-IoT. Even the later division of mMTC key metrics is surprisingly consistent.

II. The Current State of 5G

The Current State of 5G

China started 5G technology trials earlier, which are divided into two phases. The first phase is from January 2016 to the end of 2018, which is a technology-oriented trial. The other one is from 2019 to 2020, which is a real product-oriented trial up to commercialization.

The first phase is divided into 3 stages. The 5G Promotion Group completed technology-based experiments from January to September 2016. In the second stage, tests based on unified test specifications, unified spectrum, and unified platform were carried out. During that phase, China built the world’s largest 5G test network in Huairou, Beijing, with 30 base stations. Six major global equipment manufacturers participated in the trials. In June 2017, the MIIT(Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) published a public call on its website for opinions on the use of spectrum for 5G.

According to the work schedule of 3GPP and ITU, the first 5G international standard version was officially released in June 2018, namely R15. From 2019 to now, 5G has been put into application for more than 3 years, and the breadth and depth of its application keep moving forward. As a new generation of mobile communication technology, the landing application of 5G needs the support of globalization standards. Currently, 5G standards have also evolved from R15 and R16 to R17, continuously driving technological progress and expanding to a wider range of industry sectors.

III. Advantages of NB-IoT and 5G

Advantages of NB-IoT and 5G

1. 5G

A. High Speed

5G is relatively easy to build new technologies based on the good development of 4G. The strongest vision of 5G is to allow users to experience ultra-high network rates.

B. Large Capacity

With the advantages of large capacity and low power consumption, the 5G network will reduce the connection cost if fully applied. With 5G, mobile communication is not only for human entertainment but also has good applications at the level of interconnection of all things. That is to say, mobile communications will no longer be just for consumption. With 5G industrial gateways, various fields such as industry, agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, and services can be developed.

C. Low Latency

5G technology can effectively reduce the delay of data transmission and increase the data transfer rate. The response time of 5G can be reduced from an average of 0.05s in 4G to 0.001-0.002s. The same data transfer speed can be increased from 0.02-0.03Gbps to 0.1-5.0Gbps, which means we can potentially load the entire web page in 1s. Of course, the ultra-low latency benefits of 5G are not only for the web but also for gaming, VR, industrial manufacturing, medical facilities, autonomous driving, and transportation industries.

2. NB-IoT

A. Low Power Consumption

One important indicator for IoT applications is low power consumption, especially for some devices and occasions where the battery cannot be replaced frequently. NB-IoT is mainly used in small data volume and small rate devices. Therefore, the power consumption of NB-IoT devices can be very low. Device endurance can be significantly increased to last for several years.

B. Low Cost

NB-IoT has no need to rebuild the network. The RF and antennas are basically multiplexed. Let’s take China Mobile as an example. If it can clear out part of the 900MHZ band resources in the 2G network, it can directly deploy LTE and NB-IoT at the same time. The advantages of low speed, low power consumption, and low bandwidth greatly reduce the cost of NB-IoT chips and modules.

C. High Coverage

NB-IoT has another advantage–strong indoor coverage capability. With 20dB gain improvement over LTE, it is equivalent to 100 times of coverage area capability. It cannot only meet the demand for wide coverage like rural areas, but also for applications like factories, underground garages, and manhole covers which have requirements for deep coverage. For example, in the past, manhole cover monitoring using the GPRS method needs to adopt an antenna, which is easily crushed by the coming and going of vehicles. NB-IoT can be a good solution to this challenge with the right deployment.

D. Strong Link

A single sector of NB-IoT can support 100,000 connections in a single sector. Meanwhile, it supports low latency sensitivity, low device power consumption, ultra-low device cost, and optimized network architecture.

IV. The Relationship between NB-IoT and 5G

As network equipment suppliers, leaders such as Huawei and Ericsson have launched NB-IoT-based end-to-end solutions. As operators, China Mobile, China Unicom, and top global operators like Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, TIM, and AT&T have all released their own development plans for NB-IoT and launched the pilots.

In May 2020, NB-IoT was incorporated into the 5G standard. This means the life cycle and application scenarios of NB-IoT technology will be greatly expanded. And the industry application prospects and application space will be further confirmed. With the full promotion of 5G base station construction in the future, it will drive the development of NB-IoT, and accelerate the expansion of NB-IoT low latency, high reliability, large connection, and other application scenarios.

Many people do not clearly know the exact relationship between 5G and NB-IoT. Whether NB-IoT is 5G technology or not?

In fact, 5G technology will bring more than just a faster network. It will make it possible for everything to be intelligently connected. NB-IoT is the prelude and foundation of 5G commercialization, so it must be developed before the implementation of 5G. Therefore, it is even more important to push the evolution of NB-IoT. For example, the support for multicast, continuous mobility, new power levels and etc. 5G can be truly realized only if infrastructure like NB-IoT is completed.

V. The differences between NB-IoT and 5G

The differences between NB-IoT and 5G

1. Different Function

5G technology supports voice calls, SMS, network data transmission, and faster network download and upload.

NB-IoT has only a network data transmission function, and the rate of data transmission is low.

2. Different Cost

The current cost of 5G module is about $125-135, but NB-IoT modules are now costing less than $20.

3. Different Application Scenarios

One of the biggest advantages of NB-IoT is the low standby power consumption. This allows it to be used for terminal detector (accessory) products that require battery power. It is one of the most important factors of IoT communication technologies. Its application scenarios include smart street lights, smart manhole covers, smart water, electricity meters, etc.

5G is mainly used in personal mobile terminal service, which includes personal cell phones, tablets, smartwatches, etc. In addition to the above applications, it is also suitable for electronic products with large data transmission (voice, picture, verse), such as cameras, gateways, industrial controllers, etc.

In fact, NB-IoT and 5G are more complementary roles. NB-IoT is mainly used in low-cost, low power consumption and a small amount of transmitted data, while 5G is mainly used in larger content transmission and low power and cost requirements.

VI. NB-IoT Commercial Status And Development After 5G Deployment

NB-IoT 5G Relation, Differences, and Applications

Advantageous technology is bound to promote the development of its industrial chain. At present, NB-IoT has promoted the development of the smart industry, which has given rise to smart production, smart city, smart agriculture, smart home, smart medical care, smart meter reading and other fields. Because the technology can be “overlaid” directly in GSM, UMTS, or LTE networks, NB-IoT is more likely to be chosen by telecom operators than other IoT technologies. With the combined efforts of operators, equipment suppliers, and terminal chip manufacturers, it can be developed in a short time.

In these years, China attaches great importance to promoting the application of NB-IoT in niche areas. There were more than 100 million MTM (machine-to-machine) connections based on NB-IoT in 2018. It is boldly speculated that after 5G is commercialized, the total number of connections by 2022 will reach 950 million.

Based on current IoT applications, 5G will evolve to a wide range of IoT low-end terminals and wide-area deployments. After 5G is deployed, NB-IoT can achieve development in the following fields.

1. Smart Water Platform

Traditional water services in the existing 2G/3G/4G network mode planning, maintenance complex, high cost; coverage distance and capacity is limited, serious interference, poor quality; high power consumption, battery life leads to frequent product replacement, 2G gradually withdraw from the network, 3G/4G terminal module cost; intelligent water services easier to deploy, free of network maintenance, significantly improve battery life, in a highly reliable 5G network, can be achieved online monitoring of a large number of terminals.

In the existing 2G/3G/4G network mode, traditional water services have the following disadvantages.

  1. Complex planning and maintenance, high cost;
  2. Limited coverage distance and capacity, serious interference, poor quality;
  3. High power consumption and short battery life lead to frequent product replacement;
  4. High cost of 3G/4G terminal module since 2G gradually phased out the network.

Smart water services are easier to deploy. With NB-IoT, the device is free of network maintenance and can significantly improve the battery life. With a highly reliable 5G network, online monitoring of a huge number of terminals is possible.

2. Smart Agriculture

60% of agricultural area network coverage is insufficient by using agricultural technology under traditional communication technology. The power consumption/cost of GPRS/UMTS is higher and the short-range communication technology network configuration is complicated.

Compared to GSM, the coverage of NB-IoT smart agriculture in 5G increases to 7 times. Its ultra-low power consumption enables the devices to be used for 10 years of battery life. It can even achieve plug-and-play without network configuration.

3. Smart Logistics

The maintenance cost of logistics large area self-built networks under traditional networks is relatively high. NB-IoT smart logistics technology can reduce 40% customs clearance time, reduces daily workload by 45%, improves cargo tracking accuracy by 70%-90%, and improves cargo transfer efficiency by 30%.

4. Smart Street Light

Traditional PLC power line networking for street lights has high requirements for cables. It is difficult to construct and has serious power line transmission interference. It needs to be densely deployed due to the limited transmission distance. Its data reporting failure rate can be up to 20%, and there are problems such as data errors and difficulty in correcting.

5. Smart Parking

The solutions used in traditional parking management methods have disadvantages such as difficult deployment, high maintenance costs, and poor quality of serious signal interference.

NB-IoT smart parking solution is easy to deploy and maintain with remote management. It has advantages such as an interference-free authorized spectrum, a highly reliable telecom network, and high-quality coverage.


Today’s society is one in which everything is connected at a rapid pace. Along with the rapid development of economic globalization, electronic information technology is playing an increasingly important role in people’s lives. The combination of NB-IoT and 5G makes it possible to have many complex characteristics. It is also reflected in more detailed products with stronger communication. There is stronger communication and various connections between people and things, people and things. The data obtained becomes the basis for experts to refer to a certain field.