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The time has come for NB-IoT – the infrastructure is in place, now is the time to start developing devices and applications

The IoT’s potential in industry is huge, with industrial environments offering a whole host of applications for the technologies. The time is ripe for making use of NB-IoT applications in particular.

Today, the Internet of Things, or IoT, applications can achieve big things – basically, only the imagination is the limit. We at Etteplan have been working on various IoT technologies for years. Right now, the most interesting of these technologies is probably the NB-IoT based on mobile phone networks, which has finally emerged with force.

The majority of the modern 4G network mobile phone base stations can easily be equipped with NB-IoT support through a simple software update. In this area, too, Finland stands out: the NB-IoT networks currently cover the whole of the country, following Telia’s far-sighted investment in a network upgrade.

One of the strengths of NB-IoT is the network coverage – after all it is the same network that most of us use almost daily when using our mobile phones.

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NB IoT - technology and ecosystem overview

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NB IoT - technology and ecosystem overview

Telia’s move is a great step forward, as the NB-IoT has previously been plagued by a sort of chicken and egg dilemma: operators have not released networks to support the technology because they have not seen enough business potential in them; device manufacturers, for their part, have been reluctant to get involved in developing the devices due to the lack of networks. Now, the infrastructure is in place, and will not be dismantled for a while. However, the device side has yet to wake up. Against this backdrop, our message is clear: now is the time when you can and should start developing devices.

Even though NB-IoT is a young technology, Etteplan can be considered an experienced provider of engineering services in this field. For more than a year, we have worked together with players on the network side and terminal manufacturers alike. And because what we are dealing here with is, at the end of the day, ordinary mobile phone technology, we know NB-IoT like the back of our hand.

Pointless to wait for the emergence of 5G – it will take years

Some people have been wondering why we are talking about NB-IoT and other technologies instead of talking about 5G, which holds much more potential than any other existing technology. The answer is simple: even though there is a lot of buzz around 5G, the truth is that the technology will not be in place any time soon; we might have to wait until 2025.

We don’t even know yet what 5G really means. One thing is sure, though: the technology will not be compatible with any of the old ones. It will require a completely new infrastructure built from scratch, and that will require considerable investments – and a lot of time. The good news is that no one needs to just wait around for 5G to happen. 5G lies far in the future, and meanwhile, the world is doing just fine with the existing technologies.

That is why Etteplan is focusing on 4G evolution technologies, of which NB-IoT is a good example. These technologies are milestones on the path that will eventually lead to the ambitious goal of 5G. They provide excellent tools for the realisation of even large visions, cost-effectively and with low power consumption.

Industrial environments offer IoT technologies an endless range of fascinating applications. Capturing this potential requires the industrial sector to be courageous and open-minded. The ball is now in the court of device manufacturers and industrial companies. Etteplan knows all about IoT technologies and can act as an integrator between high technology and the customer. In addition, we are willing to help our customers in developing actual devices.

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Jaakko Ala-Paavola
Jaakko Ala-Paavola
Technology Director