T-Mobile has successfully completed a test of Narrowband IoT technology on a live network being used by customers and is the first wireless carrier in the country to do so. The company's trial was completed in collaboration with Ericsson and Qualcomm across several of its cell sites in the Las Vegas area. The entire test only used 200KHz of T-Mobile's AWS spectrum but managed to prove viable for use with IoT devices, the Bellevue, Washington-based mobile service provider claims. The powerful AWS spectrum is normally used for high-bandwidth LTE connections and will be supporting some of T-Mobile's 5G rollout once it begins.
The concept behind the Narrowband IoT standard is not a new one by any means, but its method of execution is different from other LTE-based standards. Essentially, the idea is to have standard cellular devices and IoT devices on the same spectrum bands, but with the IoT solutions taking up very little power and spectrum. Narrowband IoT is made to convert just enough spectrum to cover IoT devices, and to do so in a way that's minimally taxing for both the network that they are on and the devices themselves, all with a minimal possibility of interference. This approach theoretically translates to faster data for IoT devices, less battery usage on the client side, and minimal implementation costs and time for manufacturers and maintainers of IoT devices, as well as network providers.
Narrowband is just one of a number of cellular IoT standards; there are many others, with some based on technologies besides LTE. Likewise, there are IoT standards for data transmission that take advantage of the same radio waves as Wi-Fi, or are even entirely based on Wi-Fi. A large number of proprietary IoT standards also exists, with such technologies being usually packaged directly into products to offer consumers additional benefits when buying an entire IoT ecosystem from a single brand or group of partnered companies. The IoT standards war is still in full swing, but if T-Mobile's test is any indication, Narrowband stands a good chance of being widely used by Internet-enabled products in the future.