NB-IoT vs LTE-M vs LoRaWAN vs Sigfox
When it comes to choosing the right M2M connectivity solution for your business, there are several options you should consider, including multi-network roaming capabilities, the need for a fixed IP address or whether an LPWAN (Low Power WAN) solution would be more beneficial to your project. NB-IoT, LTE-M (CAT-M1), LoRaWAN and Sigfox all fall under this LPWAN category. Each of these technologies offer unique features and benefits for different use cases.
As a UK-based M2M connectivity provider serving businesses worldwide, InfiSIM understands the importance of choosing the right LPWAN connectivity solution. Whether you’re looking to connect remote assets, track and monitor devices, or enable IoT applications in deep urban infrastructure, we’ve got you covered. In this guide, we will cover the key features and benefits, as well as the use cases for each of these LPWAN technologies, so you can make an informed decision on the best M2M connectivity solution for your business needs.
NB-IoT (Narrowband Internet of Things)
NB-IoT is a mobile communications standard that allows for the transmission of telemetry and control information at low data volumes. It is an extension and improvement of the LTE standard for the existing mobile communications infrastructure and previously unused frequency bands, and it has been widely adopted in Asia, Europe, and North America.
One of the key benefits of NB-IoT is its efficiency in the wireless carrier industry, which results in affordable pricing for this type of connectivity. It operates in narrow frequency bands which means it has fantastic penetration capabilities through deep urban infrastructure whilst keeping energy usage to a minimum. These characteristics make NB-IoT a flexible and cost-effective option for many industries and M2M applications.
Thanks to its wide range of use cases, including smart metering, smart cities, smart buildings, and smart farming, the prospects for deploying NB-IoT are endless. In smart metering, for example, NB-IoT can be used to connect electricity, water, or gas sensors, providing automated transmission of consumption data and enabling consumers to make informed decisions about their energy usage. In smart cities, NB-IoT can be used to improve urban planning and minimise daily challenges in sectors such as waste management and street lighting maintenance.
Some potential use cases for NB-IoT in smart buildings include automating heating and cooling systems, improving security and access control, and enabling remote maintenance and repairs. In the agriculture industry, NB-IoT can be used for precision farming by monitoring soil conditions, crop health, and irrigation systems.
LTE-M (LTE for Machines)
Like NB-IoT, LTE-M (also known as LTE CAT M1) is an LPWAN technology that operates on the licensed spectrum, ensuring secure and private connectivity. Its LTE-based hardware architecture is designed specifically for IoT applications and is compatible with the existing LTE network, making it a cost-effective choice for carriers such as O2, Verizon and AT&T.
One of the key benefits of LTE-M is its ability to extend device battery life by up to 10 years, through the use of power-saving modes such as PSM (power save mode) and eDRX (extended discontinuous reception). These modes allow the device to intelligently decide how often and how long it needs to be active in order to transmit and receive data, and to extend the sleep cycle in idle mode, respectively.
LTE-M is ideal for businesses looking to deploy IoT applications with low data requirements and extended coverage as it is able to support a high density of devices while maintaining low power consumption. Some potential use cases for LTE-M include asset tracking, remote monitoring, and smart agriculture.
LTE-M is often more suitable than NB-IoT for applications in which mobility is a key requirement. However, we would advise that you speak to a professional to find out which solution is best for your business as many of their features and benefits are very similar.
LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network)
LoRaWAN is an open-standard networking layer that enables long-range communication with optimised energy efficiency. It is governed by the LoRa Alliance, a non-profit association with over 400 member companies worldwide. The technology is optimised for low-power and low-frequency IoT applications, making it a popular choice for a variety of use cases including asset tracking, supply chain management, agriculture, smart cities, intelligent buildings, smart homes, and smart metering.
One of the key features of LoRaWAN is its ability to enable GPS-free, low power tracking applications using geolocation. It also reduces costs in terms of infrastructure investment, operating expenses, and end-node sensors. LoRaWAN is standardised, improving global interoperability, and speeding up the adoption and rollout of networks and IoT applications.
LoRaWAN is specifically designed for low power consumption and it has the potential for extending the battery life of your IoT devices by up to 20 years. And thanks to its deep penetration capabilities in dense urban or indoor regions, a single base station can provide connectivity to rural areas up to 30 miles away. LoRaWAN is also equipped with end-to-end AES128 encryption to protect against cyber threats. However, one thing to consider is that LoRaWAN operates on the unlicensed spectrum, meaning it doesn’t use the same security features used by MNOs. For this reason, interference and security vulnerabilities can limit quality of service.
Founded in 2009, SigFox is a French company that offers proprietary technology for M2M connectivity in the LPWAN space. It has primarily focused on the European market, boasting a fairly large ecosystem of vendors. SigFox uses sub-GHz frequency bands and claims to achieve long-range communication through the use of a very low data rate of 100 bps. This low data rate allows for excellent sensitivity and the potential for long-range communication of multiple kilometres, but it also has some drawbacks.
One major drawback of SigFox is its lack of downlink capability, which limits the ability to send data back to sensors or devices. It also has the potential for signal interference and can be affected by transmit power and duty cycle limitations. Additionally, its reliance on high sensitivity and shared frequency bands can lead to reliability issues and potential interference from other systems.
SigFox is best suited for applications that require infrequent bursts of small amounts of data, such as parking sensors, water meters, or smart waste bins. However, it may not be suitable for widespread IoT applications due to its low data rate and limitations in terms of two-way communication and collision avoidance. While SigFox claims to offer a managed network dedicated to IoT, its technology has several shortcomings that may make it less suitable for certain use cases.
NB-IoT vs LTE-M vs LoRaWAN vs Sigfox: Connectivity comparison
|Coverage||~5KM urban ~20km rural||~1KM urban ~10km rural||~1KM urban ~10km rural||~10KM urban ~40km rural|
|Supports device mobility?||Yes||Limited||Yes||Yes|
|Uplink latency||Seconds||1.2 – 100s||< 60ms||Seconds|
|Allow private networks||Yes||No||No||No|
|Device battery life (up to)||10+ years (when operating as a Class A device)||15+ years (when using eDRX and PSM features)||15+ years (when using eDRX and PSM features)||10+ years|
|Maximum payload size||11-242 bytes (depending on regional regulations and spread factor)||1,280 bytes recommended||1,280 bytes recommended||12 bytes (uplink), 8 bytes (downlink)|
|Supports indoor / underground coverage?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Reachability||Depends on device class (high for Class A, low for Class C)||Depends on power saving model configuration (PSM/eDRX)||Depends on power saving model configuration (PSM/eDRX)||High (downlink transmission allowed only during, 30 seconds after uplink)|
|Maximum messages per day||Depends on regional regulations of duty cycle||Unlimited||Unlimited||140 per day (uplink), 4 per day (downlink)|
NB-IoT vs LTE-M, which LPWAN connectivity technology is right for you?
When it comes to choosing the best LPWAN connectivity technology for your business, it’s important to consider the specific needs of your application. In most cases it usually comes down to NB-IoT vs LTE-M.
Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is a cost-effective and energy-efficient LPWA technology with strong coverage and highly penetrative functionality, making it suitable for a wide range of industries and applications.
LTE-M (LTE CAT M1) offers many of the same benefits as NB-IoT and may be a more suitable solution for your project depending on your location. As a rule of thumb, if you are deploying LPWA-ready devices on the Western side of the UK, NB-IoT is more suitable. For projects on the Eastern side of the UK, LTE-M could be a better choice for your project.
- LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) offers geolocation, standardisation, low-power functionality, wide coverage, and high capacity connectivity, making it a strong choice for various IoT applications. However, you should consider a licensed alternative such as NB-IoT or LTE-M if you want to avoid interference and security vulnerabilities.
- Sigfox uses proprietary technology with a focus on infrequent bursts of small amounts of data. This technology has limitations in terms of downlink capability and collision avoidance, making NB-IoT or LTE-M a better choice in most instances.
Ultimately, the right LPWAN technology for your business will depend on your specific needs and goals. Careful consideration of the available options and their pros and cons can help you make the best decision for your company.
If you’re having trouble deciding which LPWAN technology is most suitable for your business, then contact our team – we’d be more than happy to talk you through your options!