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As the world continues to recover from a global pandemic, connectivity plays a crucial role in today’s technological recovery and ongoing evolution. The need for connected remote devices in the field continue to increase and now it’s become an absolute necessity to be able to sense the information, process it and communicate that information in a reliable, and efficient way. In the past, the main challenge for our ‘connected world’ was the ability to operate in remote locations with security capabilities and minimal power consumption.
While the big networks and marketing firms have been emphasizing recent 4G/5G adoptions where the high speed/high throughput features prevail, those types of technologies are typically costly to implementation and target power-hungry end-products, making it impractical for deployment on a worldwide scale across all types of applications that don’t necessarily require the mentioned high throughputs and data rates but would still require a level of connectivity and reliability while also being able to address low-cost, low-power consumption and low-complexity requirements for products that can be deployed in massive numbers.
To address those type of applications while still being able to benefit from legacy standards the 3GPP defined the Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) radio interface to provide IoT services though wide-area cellular networks with a set of releases that put emphasis around simplicity in order to reduce costs and address the need of low power implementations to minimize battery consumption while still being adapted to work in difficult radio conditions, especially in locations that can’t easily be covered by conventional cellular technologies.
In addition, due to the anticipated IoT market growth in terms of connected devices and applications, several efforts have been made to meet the connectivity needs. In recent years, many standards and communication protocols have been developed to support a wide range of applications for machine-to-machine communication, also known as machine-type communication (MTC). These standards and protocols were mostly dedicated to short-range applications and for well-defined usage, i.e. Bluetooth or Wi-Fi enabled devices, but in the last couple of years, long-range connectivity protocols such as Narrowband IoT have been developed and used for MTC in long-range applications, which has enabled the ability to support a broad range of applications and industries.
Figure 1: Cellular IoT Connections by Segment and Technology (Billion)
According to Ericsson’s Mobility Report, the number of IoT devices connected by NB-IoT and LTE-M technologies is expected to overtake 2G/3G connected IoT devices in the near future and overtake broadband IoT in 2027 with more than 51% of all cellular IoT connections by that time (Figure 1).
Bundling the NB-IoT protocol as part of the standard mobile 3GPP rollouts has served to accelerate adoption as many mobile network operators (MNOs) make modifications to their existing infrastructure to support features of the new releases. Furthermore, the growth of these massive IoT communications technologies, such as NB-IoT, has been recently enhanced by an added network capability that has enabled a co-existence between 4G/5G along with NB-IoT technologies in FDD bands via spectrum sharing. With these rollouts and enablement of massive IoT technologies into the existing cellular networks, the expectation for the global NB-IoT chipset market is expected to reach a $22.10 billion by 2030 with a CAGR estimate of 52.1% from the years 2021 to 2030.
From the infrastructure perspective, as shown in Figure 2, the global deployment of massive IoT technologies (both NB-IoT and LTE-M) has been primarily led by MNOs in the US and Europe. Asia and Eastern Europe are largely deploying NB-IoT alone (Cat-NB1, Cat-NB2). Overall, more than 124 service provides have commercially launched NB-IoT networks while 55 have launched Cat-M technologies, and around 40 services providers have launched both technologies.
Figure 2: Massive IoT Communications Deployment
Figure 3: Synopsys DesignWare IoT Communications IP Subsystem
Figure 4: IoT Communications Subsystem Power Domains
Use cases for power management can be seen in Table 1 highlighting recommend states for the ARC EM11D processor, RF transceiver, and subsystem logic to minimize power consumption in active, sleep (memory retention, RF idle), and standby modes (RF powered OFF, only AON logic active).
Table 1: IoT Communications Subsystem Power Modes & Power Domains
Figure 5: NB-IoT Communications Layer 1 Software
Support for low-cost, low-power wide-area communications is increasingly important for embedded IoT devices addressing a broad range of emerging smart applications. NB-IoT systems trending to become one of the key products to be implemented in the field, leveraging their low-power consumption capabilities, simplicity, cost-efficiency as well as the long-range, combined with ease of use, 2G/3G rollover and 4G/5G support. Because of this it is fair to predict that this protocol and the systems implementing it will become pervasive in different kinds of applications such as metering, industrial field, parking, wearables, agriculture devices and industrial production lines. Leveraging a pre-verified, integrated hardware and software solution that has been tested with key partners reduces risk and makes the job easier for the companies that implement it into their own SoCs.
Synopsys’ ARC IoT Communications IP Subsystem provides a complete IoT solution to address a wide range of applications and meet stringent design requirements while enabling ease of use and faster time to market.
For more information, visit the web page at: https://www.synopsys.com/dw/ipdir.php?ds=iot-comms-subsystem