NB-IoT渐成气候,规模商用为啥还要等半年

Release time:2017-06-26
author:
source:comobs
reading:147

日前,工信部公布了NB-IoT使用频率为已分配的GSM/FDDIMT系统频段,包括800MHz/900MHz/1800MHz/2100MHz频段。

TD产业联盟秘书长杨骅表示,NB-IoT使用的频带很少,适合在800MHz/900MHz/1800MHz部署。未来电信运营商采用多种频谱混合使用效率最高,FDD用来做物联接入是可行的,但用于4G现有的FDD频谱资源是不足的。

未来,用户不会再关注业务是TDD还是FDD接入。从移动通信整体发展规律看,当下TDD的重要性已经超过了FDD,包括爱立信今年在巴展上关于5G(28GHz)的应用展示也采用了TDD,其CTO青睐TDD在5G中的重要性。

移动物联网接入须多种模式

随着移动物联网(MIoT)的发展,不再如2G/3G时代通过单一技术组网满足人们简单的通信需求,大量物体连接需求的差异性非常大。“如果用同一种技术满足这些需求,必然会造成成本的不划算。”

移动物联网由宽、窄带(高、低速)等多种技术组成,其中,NB-IoT是移动物联网中的一种模式。NB-IoT的商用并不影响eMTC发展,两者是互补关系,需要同步推进。

未来移动通信网络中存在多种技术制式的融合,网络需要根据不同场景,满足不同的细分需求,如低时延、广覆盖、海量连接等等,从LTE-A开始便逐渐呈现这种多模并存的特征。杨骅认为,移动物联网将存在多个分支体系。

“NB-IoT并不是独立存在的,它是在完整的移动通信网的基础上用一个时隙来做。”

当初,由于业界对移动物联网的需求理解比较粗浅,NB-IoT最初被谈及时,仅仅停留在把物连接起来的阶段,简单的实现监测设备状态信息,“当然这也是必须要走的过程”,这使得NB-IoT的定位满足于低速率、低成本、低功耗的要求。

NB-IoT进入圈地阶段

NB-IoT与传统的移动通信业务相比较, NB-IoT设备的流量相对较低,用以往移动通信流量的计费模式来看,外界普遍认为NB-IoT的价值和赢利模式不明朗,但时间会证明一切。

尽管NB-IoT适用于静止场景应用,但物体位置的静止是相对的,运动才是常态,Rel-14中NB-IoT增强了移动特性。

NB-IoT状态信息产生的价值不是简单的流量价值所能够体现的。未来服务的模式需要既适合用户使用行为,同时又能够满足服务提供方的成本支撑。杨骅认为,移动物联网中流动的价值是数据,未来的数据汇聚与分析才是关键。而面向移动物联大场景下,不再是以单一技术满足单一应用的方式来考虑商业模式。


移动物联网接入须多种模式 NB-IoT半年后将规模商用


通过NB-IoT,运营商也在探索用户的潜在需求。目前,NB-IoT应用于电表、水表和停车,更多的应用场景和需求有待网络覆盖完善后挖掘,这就像3G时代,最初外界认为视频通话是杀手级应用,但3G普及了移动互联网,而4G时代才有了视频业务的普及。杨骅认为,“只有有了‘路’”,才会激发用户需求。

现在,正是NB-IoT圈地的阶段,而非挣钱的阶段。运营商应该通过满足未来融合的业务模式考虑当下单个的MIoT连接,预计三家运营商为家庭用户推出基于NB-IoT/eMTC的服务时间点不会相差太远。

杨骅认为,对于NB-IoT/eMTC的业务发展,家庭用户如果最初选择了A运营商的接入,很难会在后续业务上选择B运营商的接入。(其实在2016年年中,comobs便提出了NB-IoT的占坑论:NB-IoT的低功耗使得其长尾效应非常明显。)

NB-IoT产业链需要半年磨合期

“NB-IoT模组还需要半年时间进入5美金以下成本。”

这取决于两个因素:业界对于NB-IoT价值只有达到一致认可,NB-IoT才会形成有效的规模市场,从而带来成本的下降;当前,业界对于NB-IoT市场还没有清晰的预判,因此,芯片厂商无法从长远规划量产目标,只能根据阶段性的需求满足当下订单的对接,行业对接与产业磨合需要时间。

“接下来半年时间,市场需求将会促进NB-IoT产品的成熟,并形成多芯片/模组厂商竞争关系降低成本,大量的应用需求将在未来半年内形成,市场的规模效应也将逐渐显现,芯片/模组厂商就会根据规模市场去定价,而非根据一单订单去定价。”

对于NB-IoT通用模组,杨骅认为,通用模组的发展短期内有利于行业发展,由于一致性较好,通用模组的量产会推动成本的下降,不过,当前NB-IoT模组还没达到业界预期的水准。

从长远看,行业对于模组尺寸、体积的碎片化需求,难以形成统一标准。NB-IoT通用模组是否能够长远对接市场需求?杨骅认为,NB-IoT模组技术性能可以统一标准,但差异化的产品化规格难以统一。

“我们需要积极与行业合作,以行业为主由其牵头提需求,我们来提供方案满足,5G的三大场景中如低时延、高可靠等需要根据行业需求来定制满足。物联网的连接要实现智能化,而智能化靠数据算法、分析及控制。”

不久前,中国移动推出了eSIM+NB-IoT模组M5310,未来eSIM+NB-IoT是否代表了移动物联网的发展趋势?然而,杨骅更看好软SIM与NB-IoT的结合。其次,他指出,各行业对于安全的需求等级也不尽相同,诸如梯联网等就需要严苛的安全、可靠的接入,保障不被外界侵入。

另据其透露,NB-IoT(TDD)标准预计今年年底将完成。杨骅坦言, NB-IoT现在很热,但只是热在应用研究上,可持续发展的商用模式需要进一步摸索。

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Move over, Qualcomm and Sequans. In the limbo dance of the Internet of Things, a startup comes out of stealth mode today, taking cellular networking to new lows in power and price. Riot Micro is sampling a modem tailored for the latest 4G IoT standards. It claims that its RM1000 chip draws milliamps to microamps of power and could sell for well below the industry’s target of a $5 module. Carriers around the world are just starting to turn on various flavors of LTE-based cellular IoT networks. They aim to leapfrog an emerging crop of emerging low-power wide-area networks such as LoRa, Sigfox, 802.11ah Wi-Fi, and others. The Riot Micro chip is designed to handle both the Narrowband IoT and LTE Cat M1 (aka eMTC) standards. “The modems are very, very similar with a lot of commonalities between the two; and they don’t run simultaneously, it’s one or the other,” said Peter Wong, chief executive of the startup. Rather than implement baseband functions in software on a DSP, Riot carved fast Fourier transforms and baseband filters into its physical layer block. Separately, it stripped an LTE protocol stack down to just the essentials needed for the IoT specs. The result is a 55-nm TSMC chip that processes NB-IoT and Cat M1 using a 26-MHz ARM M0 controller, Mbytes of embedded SRAM, and new PLLs. Competing chips tend to use a controller running at greater than 100 MHz and using as much as 16 Mbytes of RAM, often some of it external. CEO Wong shows his working evaluation board. (Images: Riot Micro) The slow clock rate lets Riot use low-dropout regulators for power management in place of more expensive DC/DC converters that competitors need to compensate for the noise of faster logic. The result is a baseband that draws about 20 milliamps from a 3.7-V battery when handling 23-dBm transmissions. A full chipset that includes a third-party power amp and RFIC draws about 100 milliamps. In sleep mode, the part draws less than two microamps. Most of the chip sleeps while code watches a paging channel for signals. Riot claims that the chip has less latency going in and out of sleep mode than rival devices given that it does not have to load DSP code. “We think [that] we can bring the cost of cellular close to that of Bluetooth so we can help drive the deployment of the IoT,” said Wong. The RM1000 evaluation boards use Skyworks power amps and RFICs from ACP AG of Switzerland. However, they could also work with chips from Qorvo or other suppliers. The startup faces two top challenges. Its highly tailored modem means that it does not support fallback to legacy 2/3G and LTE standards that rival chips handle with software on DSP cores. As recently as a year ago, Riot considered supporting 2G, “but the requirement seems to have gone away,” said Greg Wynans, vice president of marketing at Riot. Now carriers are more interested in hitting new power and price lows with NB-IoT. In addition, some see NB-IoT as part of their transition plan to turning off 2G networks, which were not designed to support massive numbers of IoT nodes, he said. The other challenge for Riot is that it’s a newcomer with untested silicon and software. So the startup is testing its chips with base stations and carrier software, aiming for production silicon by June. “The downside of a hardware-centric approach is [that] you have to get it right,” said Wong, adding that the company has had working chips for four months. “We don’t have the option of changing firmware on a DSP, so we did a lot of emulation before it went to the field.” Rivals such as Qualcomm and Sequans already have M1 and NB-IoT chips going into carrier trials. As volumes ramp, they are expected to field silicon more optimized for the specs, and giants such as Intel and Qualcomm already have the power amps and RFICs that they need in-house. A basic block diagram of the RM1000. “I don’t know if anyone will do hardware-centric design like we have done, but they may use lower power and lower frequency DSPs … and some of them may not have their own protocol stacks,” said Wong. For its part, Riot may integrate power amps or RFICs in a next-generation part. However, finding independent sources of IP for those blocks is not easy, and to date, Riot lacks its own analog team. The company has raised an undisclosed sum of less than $20 million since it was founded about four years ago. The company initially aimed to sell LTE protocol stacks until Wong joined as CEO three years ago after serving as a tech strategist at LSI. “We pivoted hard from IP and algorithm development and retooled the staff to become a semiconductor company,” he said. “We saw [that] others were repurposing LTE modems” for NB-IoT. Wong hired an LTE protocol team from Blackberry and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi chip experts from the former Newport Media that had been acquired by Broadcom. The RM1000 comes in an 8 x 8-mm 68-pad QFN package or a 3.5 x 3.2-mm WLCSP.
2017-12-06 00:00 reading:360
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