What is Narrowband?

For decades we’ve been building technologies that enable us to communicate more data and at a faster rate. Many of us will be familiar with broadband, but what exactly is narrowband and how is it different?

Intro to Narrowband

A standard based low power wide area technology has been developed to enable a wide range of new IoT devices and services. It significantly improves the power consumption of user devices, system capacity and spectrum efficiency, more specifically in deep coverage areas. What’s interesting is the fact that the battery life is more than 10 years and supports a wide range of use cases.

The long term goal of wide-area internet of things network is to deliver data rates from hundreds of bits per second to tens of kilobits per second (kbps) with a wide coverage, a battery life up to 10 years. In comparison to broadband networks where data is transmitted at more than 100 megabits per second (mbps).

Rural and deep indoors are the most challenging areas. The new physical layer signals and channels are designed to meet the demanding requirements of extended coverage. The signals that are used in a slower form of communication have great range of reception due to the narrower filter can be used in the narrow band communication. This technology is a narrow radio technology specially designed for IoT. The focus being an indoor coverage at a low cost for connecting large number of devices.


French company Sigfox deploys wireless networks designed to connect to low energy devices. These networks use ultra narrow bands, unlicensed sub-1 GHz bands and standard radio transmission methods. The company has been working with regional operators to roll out networks with all of the data received going back to Sigfox servers before being sent to third party APIs to enable the development of customer facing applications and extended functionality.


This is an open source LPWAN infrastructure by the LoRa Alliance. Interestingly, this allows other companies to create their own IoT networks based on low data, low range technology specifications. It is designed in such a way that it covers geographical areas the size of entire cities. The approach is a Chirp Spread Spectrum mode where in the communications with different data rates do not interfere with each other and create a set of “virtual” channels where in they increase the capacity of the gateway.


Most recently Telstra has announced its narrow band IoT with lower band network stated to be enabled at the beginning of 2017. Telstra is currently undertaking an upgrade to enable more IoT applications across its networks and at a lower cost. Once the network’s enabled one can start to develop the applications, the edge vendors will be able to start to develop the network interface cards and the modems that can support these.

Vodafone and Huawei

Largest mobile operator Vodafone, supplies connectivity to an internet of things and have started a joint venture with Huawei to incubate and commercialize machine to machine and internet of things. Building projects with the right potential to deploy on a large scale is key to the enterprise as this ultimately brings the costs associated with the IoT down.

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