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ARM invests in the future of IoT connectivity

By ARM Wireless GM Paul Williamson

February 21, 2017

The billions of connected devices making up the Internet of Things (IoT) will serve a huge range of application needs. From single-sensor devices regulating and monitoring factory production flows to intelligence stitched into a city’s arteries to tune streetlights to the presence of people, vehicle traffic and weather conditions. Despite the incredible range of use cases there are two non-negotiable elements that must be architected into the system’s heart – security and low power. Security because the system must be trusted, low power because energy equals cost.

Last summer the industry had a breakthrough moment on both fronts when NarrowBand-IoT (NB-IoT), a new low power wide area connectivity standard, was approved. It is seen as the standard that will unlock long range IoT connectivity at scale as mobile network operators only have to upgrade their existing LTE systems to make it work. The standard will be cost-efficient to adopt, it will allow data to be sent over hundreds of miles at ultra-low-power, and it opens up the chance to tie in market-leading chip security technologies from ARM.

The question for me in leading ARM’s wireless business was how to move quickly to enable our partners to design NB-IoT compliant products. This week we made significant progress on that by acquiring Mistbase and NextG-Com for their specialist engineering expertise in software and hardware IP that meets the new NB-IoT standard.

NB-IoT ARM-based chips

We are already working on ARM Cordio-N solutions to reduce the time to market for our partners’ NB-IoT standard-compliant chips.  In addition to the hardware and software expertise of the acquired companies, we are also investing in radio design that will offer complete NB-IoT chip solutions from application software to antenna. This will cut the complexity of adopting cellular IoT technology.

In enabling NB-IoT compatibility, we will save the industry years of development effort and improve access for developers by reducing the time it takes to get products approved by standards bodies and network operators. Our NB-IoT IP also complements ARM’s broader product portfolio, making it easy for partners to take advantage of our security and ARM mbed Cloud capabilities. Combining ARM NB-IoT IP with secure cloud connectivity will allow ARM’s chip partners to create industry-leading products that tie into an end-to-end security system.

Analysts IHS Markit prediction

“The deployment of NB-IoT technology in 2017 represents an inflection point in the LPWAN market as it addresses pent up demand for an open standards based solution that service providers can deploy widely at scale. As a result, IHS Markit forecasts that NB-IoT will grow from 1 million connections in 2017 to over 141 million connections by 2021, an astounding 240 percent compounded annual growth rate, making it the fastest growing LPWAN technology we track.”

– IHS Markit 2017

Mistbase and NextG-Com

Mistbase is based in Lund, Sweden, and provides a complete NB-IoT physical layer implementation solution. NextG-Com is based in London, England, and offers a complete layer two and three software stack for NB-IoT. Both teams have significant experience in cellular standards and IP development and are already working together to provide integrated solutions. ARM will be demonstrating the combined IP at MWC, Hall 6, stand 6C100.

The acquisitions expand the ARM portfolio of IoT connectivity which already includes established short range Bluetooth 5 and 802.15.4 Cordio products. By providing complete connectivity IP options of short range PAN (Personal Area Network) and long range NB-IoT connectivity, ARM is enabling its partners to address any class of IoT application from the smart city and smart home, to the factory and farm.

NB-IoT endorsed by all major network operators

NB-IoT, 3GPP Release 13, was approved by the global telecoms standards body 3GPP in June 2016. Using the licensed band sanctioned, the NB-IoT standard in products reduces technology risk and business risk, ensuring that platforms built have long term support, and international growth.

It is designed to fit into narrow band 200 kHz deployment within the currently licensable spectrum so deployment costs will be low as cellular carriers will be able to move existing GSM spectrum across to NB-IoT through a simple network upgrade.

As well easing deployment, NB-IoT brings higher levels of service quality compared to unlicensed technologies as it is uses dedicated IoT spectrum. This will be increasingly valuable as the number of deployed devices grows exponentially and the potential for service degradation increases if infrastructure is not fully managed.

The addition of NB-IoT capability means the ARM ecosystem has access to the most scalable range of IoT connectivity solutions. It is a portfolio we are continually investing in as we seek to help architect a world where hundreds of billions of devices can actively connect to global networks, linking people, businesses and the environment in powerful new ways we are only just beginning to imagine.

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