Huawei unveils NB-IoT solution at MWC Shanghai

Huawei has announced its NB-IoT solution in Shanghai, with a series of commercialised products and solutions to be made available at the end of this year.

Chinese technology giant Huawei has launched its narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) solution at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Shanghai, saying it will have a large-scale commercialised IoT offering by the end of this year.

Huawei's NB-IoT solution will enable telecommunications providers to "turn IoT into a basic service", the company said, with the solution to be made available in September followed by a large commercial trial slated for Q4 and large-scale commercial deployment in December.

"The number of cellular IoT connections worldwide will grow seven-fold over the next three to four years," said Jiang Wangcheng, vice president of Marketing and Solutions in Huawei's Products and Solutions division.

"NB-IoT will be a key driver for this trend -- it will also be one of the key untapped markets for operators. In 2015, Huawei launched the '1+2+1' IoT ICT Strategy. As commercial deployment draws near, our end-to-end NB-IoT Solution will be part of our core IoT strategy and drive the commercialisation of IoT applications.

"We are also building up a robust ecosystem where we aim to explore new business areas together with our carrier customers and partners. At Huawei, we are very confident and fully ready to enter a new era of IoT commercialisation."

Included in Huawei's low-power, wide-area NB-IoT solution is Huawei's LiteOS and NB-IoT chipset-enabled Smart Device Solution; base stations named eNodeB that adapt to NB-IoT; the "core in a box" network-function virtualisation (NFV) IoT Packet Core; and a big data-capable cloud-based IoT Connection Management Platform.

The solution was developed according to 3GPP standards, and is accessible for all NB-IoT application and device partners.

According to Huawei, its so-called "1+2+1" IoT strategy creates the benefits of rapid and flexible full network coverage of NB-IoT thanks to NFV-based cloud SingleRAN architecture; its LiteOS allows for low-power industry-specific NB-IoT devices with a shorter time to market; and the solution enables industry-specific applications through the open big data-capable cloud-based Connection Management Platform.

Huawei also announced that it will be launching an NB-IoT software suite named SoftRadio during the third quarter of 2016, which "allows developers to access NB-IoT labs via the internet for remote innovation and commissioning". It will also publish a whitepaper on how developers can make use of its IoT open labs.

Huawei and Vodafone in April opened an open lab in Newbury, UK, dedicated to the research and development (R&D) of NB-IoT technology and applications, with Huawei planning to open six more across the globe.

The lab will provide a testing environment for application developers and chip, module, and device manufacturers, the companies said.

Huawei has been working towards its IoT solution for some time; in May, it announced completing a trial of its NB-IoT technology across Vodafone Australia's network in Melbourne, calling the wireless low-power wide-area network tests a success.

The companies were able to attain greater depth and distance -- to the tune of penetrating through three double-brick walls in depth, and up to 30km in distance -- in coverage using NB-IoT in comparison to 2G, 3G, and 4G.

Using narrowband networks for the IoT will allow for more devices to be connected to 4G networks at a lower cost.

Huawei in April said that with NB-IoT standards due to be "frozen" in June, it has been undertaking trials across the globe ahead of Thursday's NB-IoT announcement.

A consortium of tech giants and telecommunications carriers have been collaborating for several years on cellular NB-IoT for various reasons, including the cost, scale, and security inherent in connecting millions of IoT devices.

Smart parking has been trialled worldwide by Huawei over the past few years, with the company announcing alongside China Unicom in July 2015 that they would be collaborating on rolling out smart parking to the Shanghai Disney Resort.

Huawei's president of Products and Solutions Ryan Ding also recently discussed Huawei's core strategy for the IoT itself, outlining a three-pronged approach.

The foundational layer of this involves what he called Huawei's LiteOS, which enables low-latency and energy-saving things to be connected to the IoT. The second layer involves collaboration between wired and wireless connections to ensure that connectivity is ubiquitous and coverage is enhanced. The third and final step is to invest in a cloud-based IoT connectivity management platform by which Huawei can ensure tens of millions of connections of devices, and fast integration of these.

"Our strategy on IoT is to focus on connectivity," added Huawei CEO Eric Xu.

"And that's going to be an intrinsic part of our mission around building a better-connected world ... connecting more things to the network."

Huawei has been working on the IoT chipset and modules announced on Thursday for some time, while also collaborating with telcos to come up with a standard that is "conducive for the carrier network to carry more IoT connections".