Smart choice for the smart grid: Narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT)

Yuke Li, Xiang Cheng, Yang Cao, Dexin Wang, Liuqing Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

247 Scopus citations


The low power wide area network (LPWAN) technologies, which is now embracing a booming era with the development in the Internet of Things (IoT), may offer a brand new solution for current smart grid communications due to their excellent features of low power, long range, and high capacity. The mission-critical smart grid communications require secure and reliable connections between the utilities and the devices with high quality of service (QoS). This is difficult to achieve for unlicensed LPWAN technologies due to the crowded license-free band. Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), as a licensed LPWAN technology, is developed based on the existing long-term evolution specifications and facilities. Thus, it is able to provide cellular-level QoS, and henceforth can be viewed as a promising candidate for smart grid communications. In this paper, we introduce NB-IoT to the smart grid and compare it with the existing representative communication technologies in the context of smart grid communications in terms of data rate, latency, range, etc. The overall requirements of communications in the smart grid from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives are comprehensively investigated and each of them is carefully examined for NB-IoT. We further explore the representative applications in the smart grid and analyze the corresponding feasibility of NB-IoT. Moreover, the performance of NB-IoT in typical scenarios of the smart grid communication environments, such as urban and rural areas, is carefully evaluated via Monte Carlo simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8170296
Pages (from-to)1505-1515
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE Internet of Things Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Manuscript received August 15, 2017; revised November 14, 2017; accepted November 21, 2017. Date of publication December 8, 2017; date of current version June 8, 2018. This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation of China under Grant 61622101 and Grant 61571020, in part by the Ministry National Key Research and Development Project under Grant 2016YFE0123100, in part by the National Science Foundation under Grant CNS-1343189, and in part by the Key Research and Development Project of China Southern Power Grid under Grant 2017zbkjxm0044. (Corresponding author: Xiang Cheng.) Y. Li is with the State Key Laboratory of Management and Control for Complex Systems, Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100190, China, and also with the School of Computer and Control Engineering, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China (e-mail:

Funding Information:
NB-IoT now has been standardized by 3rd generation partnership project (3GPP) in LTE release 13 [11], and has received strong support from Huawei, Ericsson, and Qualcomm. The objectives of NB-IoT are to ensure a device cost below 5 USD, uplink latency below 10 s, up to 40 connected devices per household, a device with 164-dB coupling loss, and a ten-year battery life can be reached if the user equipment transmits 200 bytes of data a day on average [12].

Funding Information:
NB-IoT can perfectly satisfy the requirements of AMI applications. It is capable of supporting massive number of low-throughput devices within a wide-range coverage. Huawei and Janz CE has announced and tested the first smart meter based on NB-IoT in November 2016 [35]. This pioneering project has been launched in Lisbon, Portugal, in June 2017 with the support of the Portuguese operator NOS, which will become a part of the UPGRID project of the Horizon 2020 Program of the European Commission [36]. However, NB-IoT is not eligible for the real-time metering applications requiring latency as low as 12–20 ms and the high-date-rate applications such as bulk data transmission from all meters.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 IEEE.


  • Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI)
  • communication technologies
  • low power wide area network (LPWAN)
  • narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT)
  • smart grid


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