Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT)

Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is a new way of communicating with “things” that require small amounts of data, over long periods, in hard to reach places.

What is Narrowband IoT?

Narrowband IoT (NB‑IoT), also known as LTE Cat NB1, is a Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technology that works virtually anywhere. It connects IoT devices more simply and efficiently on already established mobile networks, and handles small amounts of fairly infrequent 2‑way data, securely and reliably. And the best is, it provides:

  • very low power consumption
  • excellent extended range in buildings and underground
  • easy deployment into existing cellular network architecture
  • network security & reliability
  • lower component cost


nb iot

NB-IoT meets the challenges

We believe in a wireless future with secure, stable, and robust connectivity. Many potential “connected things” are located in remote or hard to reach areas, at long distances from the next cellular base station or in shielded areas, such as deep within buildings or underground structures. When there is  coverage,  it  is often  poor and requires  the  device  transmitter  to  operate  at  high  power, draining the battery. Additionally, cellular networks are not optimized for applications that only transmit small amounts of infrequent data. Further, the existing cellular standards don’t support power saving capabilities, which makes these standards unsuitable for inexpensive devices that require battery lives of several years.

NB-IoT will connect many more devices to the Internet of Things and make many new applications a reality. It is optimized for applications that need to communicate small amounts of data over long periods of time. Since it operates in licensed spectrum, it is secure and reliable providing guaranteed quality of service.

Using other cellular air interfaces for a typical NB-IoT application would be too expensive, as NB-IoT applications don’t need all their capabilities. NB-IoT applications focus on low speed, robust data transfer, and an appropriate level of reliability. A low device price also cuts the installation cost and reduces  the risk of theft.

u-blox - An Early Leader in NB-IoT Technology

u-blox has worked with partners around the world to develop, promote and test NB-IoT:

MQTT Flex and BYO-SIM for NB-IoT

The new MQTT Flex service from u-blox allows MQTT-SN communication between NB-IoT devices and the enterprise via the Thingstream IoT service delivery platform. With MQTT Flex, you can choose your own connectivity, be that NB-IoT, LTE-M, or GSM. This brings all the benefits of MQTT-SN communication and the robustness of the u-blox carrier-grade MQTT broker to your network but with your own choice of connectivity.

Find out more about the benefits of BYO-SIM

Future NB-IoT applications


NB-IoT applications blog post

Smart metering

NB-IoT is well suited for monitoring gas and water meters, via regular and small data transmissions. Network coverage is a key issue in smart metering rollouts. Meters have a very strong tendency to turn up in difficult locations, such as in cellars, deep underground or in remote rural areas. NB-IoT has excellent coverage and penetration to address this issue.

Smart cities

NB-IoT can help local government control street lighting, determine when waste bins need emptying, identify free parking spaces, monitor environmental conditions, and survey the condition of roads.

Smart buildings

NB-IoT connected sensors can send alerts about building maintenance issues and perform automated tasks, such as light and heat control. NB-IoT can also act as the backup for the building broadband connection. Some security solutions may even use LPWA networks to connect sensors directly to the monitoring system, as this configuration is more difficult for an intruder to disable as well as easier to install and maintain.


NB-IoT will provide wearable devices with their own long-range connectivity, which is particularly beneficial for people and animal tracking. Similarly, NB-IoT can also be used for health monitoring of those suffering from chronic or age-related conditions.

Agricultural and environmental

NB-IoT connectivity will offer farmers tracking possibilities, so that a sensor containing a u-blox NB-IoT module can send an alert if an animal’s movement is out of the ordinary. Such sensors could be used to monitor the temperature and humidity of soil, and in general to keep track of attributes of land, pollution, noise, rain, etc.

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