Cellular Internet of Things Author Q&A

By: , Posted on: November 9, 2017

From left to right, top to bottom: Olof Liberg, Marten Sundberg, Johan Bergman, Eric Wang, Joachim Sachs

Ask an Expert: Olof Liberg
Author of: Cellular Interent of Things
Affiliation: Ericsson Business Unit Networks, Sweden

How did you become interested in the Cellular Internet of Things and get involved with the development of the 3GPP standards

I joined Ericsson 10 years ago and was immediately recruited to work with standardization of the 3GPP cellular technologies, now commonly known as 2, 3, 4 and 5G. What I find most appealing with standardization is that it gives me the opportunity to work with and shape new technologies. I also appreciate the 3GPP meetings were highly skilled professionals meet to discuss and progress the standardized functionality in a very friendly and productive atmosphere. I am still after 10 years very fond of my work as a 3GPP engineer. To start with I was fully focused on the set of 2G technologies, and these have until now been the most popular cellular technologies for machine type communication (MTC). So, when 3GPP decided to speed up the MTC development and specify the Cellular IoT technologies I had the adequate background for taking part in this work. At the time, I was also the chairman of the technical specification group initiating the work on EC-GSM-IoT and NB-IoT.

What was the vision behind the development of standards for Cellular Internet of Things?

The development of the technologies defining the Cellular Internet of Things was driven by a vision of a digitalized society where cellular technologies are facilitating communication between billions of devices serving a diverse set of applications. On a more detailed level the ambition was to define power efficient radio access technologies providing ubiquitous coverage at a guaranteed quality of service for devices of ultra-low complexity.

Why should someone consider 3GPP’s standards over proprietary systems?

The attention given to a few proprietary low power wide area systems operating in unlicensed spectrum is remarkable and did to a large extent trigger the Cellular IoT work in 3GPP. Compared to the proprietary systems the 3GPP Cellular IoT technologies have several significant advantages. The most important is perhaps the global 3GPP eco-system that supports the Cellular IoT technologies and their deployment on top of already existing systems. Licensed spectrum further supports a level of quality of service that cannot be guaranteed in unlicensed frequency bands.

What motivated you to write the book?

The general motivation was the feeling of having contributed to the development of three new, ground-breaking and disruptive technologies that deserves high attention and to be brought to a wider audience outside of 3GPP. It was also motivating to present EC-GSM-IoT, LTE-M and NB-IoT side by side and in detail compare their relative strengths.

Why do your readers need to know about these different standards and assess their strengths?

EC-GSM-IoT, LTE-M and NB-IoT are three separate technologies each with its own merits. EC-GSM-IoT is in a backwards compatible manner built on GPRS/EGPRS and can leverage the global footprint of GSM and the fact that GSM until today is the most frequently used cellular standard for MTC. It’s well suited for an operator that maintains a GSM network. LTE-M is on the other hand based on LTE with the original ambition to make LTE competitive with EGPRS in the massive MTC market. In addition to lowering the device complexity, LTE-M improves both LTE coverage and UE energy performance. It is the perfect choice for an LTE operator that wants to extend the abilities of its network towards MTC. NB-IoT is finally a new technology that reuses components from LTE but supports system operation over only 200 kHz. This equips NB-IoT with a high deployment flexibility that is important for an operator that wants to maintain an IoT network with minimum spectrum footprint. So although these three solutions offers similar qualities such as good coverage, energy efficient UE operation and high system capacity they were design for different contexts.

What insights do you provide that can’t be obtained from reading the standards?

3GPP technical specifications are presenting a mixture of technologies and features and can from time to time be challenging to read and understand. They are minimalistic and do for example only provide the absolutely necessary technical details and minimum performance requirements needed to implement the technologies they specify. The intention with this book is to make the technical details of EC-GSM-IoT, LTE-M and NB-IoT easily understandable. The book presents the background leading up to the work and the requirements ultimately shaping the technologies. The book is also presenting a unique performance summary in terms of EC-GSM-IoT, LTE-M and NB-IoT coverage, throughput, latency, energy efficiency, system capacity and device complexity.

How could your book be used by an engineer wanting to implement the standards?

The book should be able to serve as an entry point to each of the described technologies. While the 3GPP standards provides the detailed description of how to implement a technology the book aims at explaining why certain design choices have been made. This deeper understanding will hopefully ease the task to implement the cellular IoT technologies. The presented performance comparison is also intended to support the decision in which of the standards to implement.

What impact will 5G have on cellular IoT?

I expect 3GPP to base its 5G IoT performance on LTE-M and NB-IoT. A 5G technology needs to support one million connected devices per square kilometer. To be able to support this high capacity LTE-M and NB-IoT are undergoing a continuous evolution making them more and more capable and efficient. Qualifying LTE-M and NB-IoT as 5G technologies is an important statement for the future.

How do you see cellular IoT developing in the next 3-5 years?

They will continue to evolve to meet the increasing demand for diverse applications. The development for shortening latency and increasing reliability is already undergoing. It can also be anticipated that they will take the step outside of the licensed spectrum domain and be made available in unlicensed frequency bands. This will make Cellular IoT available to new industries and businesses.

What timescale do you see that happening?

The Cellular IoT technologies were developed during Release 13. 3GPP has already completed Release 14 and are now in the midst of Release 15. Both these releases add a significant number of advanced features to the basic set specified in Release 13. The deployment of new features is usually, for good practical reasons, one or two years behind the 3GPP specifications. Now in 2017 we see NB-IoT and LTE-M being deployed worldwide and the most recent features specified in 3GPP will soon appear on top of these networks. The adaptation of NB-IoT and LTE-M for unlicensed frequency bands are ongoing in the MulteFire alliance. The success of this track is highly dependent on a timely and successful standardization in MulteFire and on the growth of the IoT market.

Cellular Internet of Things

  • Provides a detailed introduction to the EC-GSM-IoT, LTE-M and NB-IoT technologies
  • Presents network performance of the 3GPP cellular technologies, along with an analysis of the performance of non-cellular alternatives operating in unlicensed spectrum
  • Includes prediction of true performance levels using state-of-the-art simulation models developed in the 3GPP standardization process

You can read more about the book and read Chapter 1 The Cellular Internet of Things for a limited time here

Cellular Internet of Things is available now on ScienceDirect. Want your own copy? Enter code STC317 when you order via Elsevier.com and save up to 30%

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