Sunday, March 18, 2018

How to connect with NB-IoT

March 18, 2018 Posted by Akalanka , No comments

Like any wireless or wired network, NB-IoT requires a modem with NB-IoT capability to reach the network. However unlike a WiFi or Bluetooth modem, NB-IoT requires a SIM card and subscription to a NB-IoT enabled network operator as well. In that it is more similar to an ordinary mobile service subscription. Mobitel, Sri Lanka's national mobile service provider is currently deploying NB-IoT around the island and if you are in Sri Lanka you can contact them to get pointers on how to connect your NB-IoT device.

NB-IoT modem saga

The standardization of NB-IoT was completed by 3GPP (the guys who tell whos who and whats what in telco standardization domain) in mid 2016. Since then we have seen multiple chipset manufacturers hopping on the bandwagon to build NB-IoT enabled chipsets. The first NB-IoT chipset was built by a UK based company Neul which is now acquired by Huawei. Their chipset was later used by popular modem manufacturers like Swiss based u-Blox and China based Quectel. u-Blox introduced the Sara N200,N210 series while Quectel came up with the BC-95. Another giant in the chipset arena, Qualcomm was quick to embark on its own NB-IoT journey with their MDM9206. This chipset is adopted by another very famous name in the modem business, SIMCom in their SIM7000 modem series. Sequans communcations, also a popular brand in modem business has their own single chip modem called the Monarch series. Another Chinese telco equipment giant, ZTE is also in the modem market with their Welink ME3612.

In summary, at the time of writing, we have the following modems for NB-IoT

  • BC 95 by Quectel
  • BG 96 by Quectel
  • SIM7000 by SIMCom
  • N200/210 by u-Blox
  • Monarch N by Sequans
  • ME3612 by ZTE

Each modem comes with its own quirks and features. Some are more developer friendly than others. An important factor to consider is the amount of resources that are available. Large chinese firms such as Huawei are aggressively driving NB-IoT in network side, platform side and device side which means there are more resources than you think if you are willing to learn chinese (I'm kidding the good guys at Google have given us the translator for free) and search in Baidu (yes its their own search engine).
For the interest of our local readers we will go through the most popular modems like N200, BC95 and SIM7000 in our following posts anything else we can get our our hands on. Till then keep hacking!

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