While there is a lot of industry interest in IoT air interfaces and their individual merits, there is also more than a fair amount of uncertainty and unknowns regarding these technologies and what they can and cannot do, both in the short term and in the longer term.  In this Signals Ahead report we look at the collective group of 3GPP-based CIoT technologies, by leveraging operator and vendor interviews, our analysis of 3GPP filings, and our recent participation in the last few 3GPP standardization meetings.

Highlights of the Study include the following:

History 101.  We take a trip back through memory lane to show how and why we ended with the existing family of 3GPP-based CIoT technologies and device categories, including Cat 0, Cat M1, EC-GSM and Cat M2 (aka “NB-IoT”).

The Traffic Profiles.  The best way to understand what NB-IoT / EC-GSM can and cannot do is to understand the traffic profiles and use cases used by 3GPP during the standardization process.

Performance Analysis.  Leveraging the traffic profiles and published performance analysis results, we show what the marketing claims of NB-IoT really mean, the inherent tradeoffs that exist, and why we believe capacity is (or at least should be) dead last in terms of operator requirements.

Getting from Here to There.  We discuss the likely impacts to the RAN and CN, including the potential / likely role of network virtualization and the use of an “EPC-lite” network.  Included in this discussion is an update on the status of the NB-IoT specification, including some of the outstanding issues that remain.

The Deployment Scenarios.  We discuss the pros and cons of the 3 deployment scenarios, namely standalone / GSM refarming, guard band, and in-band.

Adding another “G”.  Based on what NB-IoT can and cannot do, as well as the likely traffic profiles, we discuss the practicality of NB-IoT fulfilling the 5G use cases being discussed that pertain to uMTC and cMTC.

And in the other Corner.  CIoT technologies are not the only option that exists. In addition to the non-3GPP wide area technologies there are also the local and personal area technologies that play a role, either in a complementary or competitive role. We discuss.