NB-IoT event organized by Comet electronics on December 4th

LTE_NB-IOT

NB-IoT is one of the promising LPWAN technologies I review in both my Industry 4.0 and OpenFest 2018 talks.

It’s lightweight LTE technology which has only 48 bytes of payload and 30kbps up and down link. Some call it 0G.

NB-IoT is specified by 3GPP standartization organization, same which standartize 2G/3G/4G/5G. It works flawless with existing cellular technologies with simplified RF and processing.

With these high speeds and small payloads the average consumption of NB-IoT make it more efficient even than LoRa, but there is many things to consider in your design.

First is that NB-IoT never will reach LoRa price point, it will be always about x2 more expensive.

Second – some modules like for instance the popular Ublox SARA-N2  which cost EUR 11 for 250 pcs, can’t work at lower than 2.75V power supply. Most Lithium batteries capacity is quoted with battery discharge from 3V to 2V so these modules will work only with fraction of the capacity of Lithium batteries. They are designed to operate from 2.75 to 4.2V i.e. targeting LiPO re-chargeable batteries, but these will never stay charged for 10 years as NB-IoT technology promises, so this is really odd design choice by Ublox.

Another thing to take into consideration is the high current pulses which LTE technology introduce (up to 2A when link is established). So even on paper NB-IoT to looks better than LoRa it still could be implemented with compromises where these benefits to be not seen.

Fortunately some Chinese vendors (like Quectel) made their modules BC66 to work from 2.1V.

Comet Electronics is organizing on December 4th NB-IoT event together with the first cellular operator which implements NB-IoT connectivity in Bulgaria – A1 and with Chinese module supplier Quectel.

It would be interesting to touch and evaluate this technology which is relatively new, has no infrastructure and is dependent by subscription fees only.

NB-IoT Gateways are not expensive and cost about $2000, but you can’t use them unless you have licensee to operate at GSM frequency (and these licensees cost millions of EUROs at least here in Bulgaria) so you can use your gateway only in Faraday cage :). This is where LoRa technology shine and this is what makes it so popular! No subscription, no fees for data transport, everyone can run his own gateway.

This is also one of the reason NB-IoT infrastructure is not so well developed – the investment is small, but the mobile operators still can’t figure out how to squeeze money out of this. There are already several providers on the net which sell NB-IoT SIM cards with EU roaming and with low cost like $12 per year, but local operators will find a way to shut these down and take their share.

A13-OLinuXino REV.B is assembling

Image

Instead of hurry to release production run we decided to open the development process to the community early on.

We already made first Revision A prototypes and sent some boards to selected developers who were invited to hack and shape the board software support.

The recap is that board works well with Android 4.0 image which is provided by Allwinner A13-SDK and there is support for:

– USB keyboard
– USB mouse
– 3G modems, we will offer A13-3G low cost approx. EUR 25-35 USB 3G modems later which are compatible with A13-OLinuXino
– 2M pixel Camera, we work on A13-CAM2M add-on board which will be released for about EUR 10
– 7″ LCD with touchscreen panel, which we are going to provide as A13-LCD7 which will cost EUR 45 and A13-LCD7TP which will also have touchscreen panel for EUR 55
– WIFI RTL8188CU , which is assembled on board for A13-OLinuXino-WIFI, but will be also available as USB-RTL8188CU for iMX233-OLinuXino as well
– USB-Ethernet low cost adapter based on QF9700 SoC is tested and works without issues, we still hesitate if we should offer this as it’s already available on ebay at hard to beat $3 price including free shipment 🙂

Now it’s time to add mainstream Linux support.

In the new Revision B we fixed some minor bugs we discovered in Revision A and small batch is scheduled for assembling.

If you are interested to be among the first to have A13-OLinuXino please register your interest as at the end of next week we will also begin selling only small batch of Revision B (Developer Edition boards) on our web shop (olimex.com) for members of the community who want to join the development efforts.

As the quantity is limited we will have to restrict the sales only to potential developers, the Developer edition of the board will include NAND flash and WIFI and will be sold for the regular EUR 55 price + as bonus for the developers we will cover free delivery worldwide by DHL/FedEx or TNT (whichever is most economical for destination country).