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Which Cellular Technology Will Best Optimize Your IoT Solution—LTE, LTE-M, or NB-IoT?

IoT Best Practices

Deciding on which connectivity technology to use can make or break your IoT solution. The right connectivity technology will connect your IoT solution with little to no hiccups, help you manage your costs, and ensure that your end customers stay happy. Conversely, selecting the wrong connectivity solution can set your product back, damage your reputation with customers, and possibly even drive up your costs.

Ultimately, the right connectivity technology will meet your IoT solution’s needs, such as battery life, throughput, deployment location, and more.

Here’s what to consider when deciding which connectivity technology is best suited for your IoT solution.

Is Cellular the Best Option?

Cellular isn’t necessarily the best option for every IoT solution. Sometimes, a short-range connectivity technology such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth might make more sense for your solution in terms of capabilities and cost.

Cellular technology might be the best route for your solution if you:

  • Need to transport wireless data long-term over a large coverage area
  • Want an easy configuration and installation process
  • Want to keep costs low without sacrificing coverage reliability

If cellular does seem like the correct type of connectivity technology for your IoT solution, the next step is to narrow down the type of cellular technology.

Narrowing Down Cellular Technology Options

Currently, there are three main options for cellular technology on the market:

  • 4G LTE
  • LTE-M
  • NB-IoT

4G LTE is a connectivity technology that uses more power but has lower latency, making it well-suited for high-speed applications. LTE-M and NB-IoT are both Low Power, Wide Area (LPWA) technologies that are part of the 5G standard and have many similarities.

However, each of these three types of cellular technologies has unique characteristics that you need to carefully consider based on your solution’s needs:

Cellular Technology

General Use Cases

Example Use Case

Geographic Availability

Data Throughput (MB/per second)

Latency

Battery Life

Radio Cost

4G LTE

Low-latency, high-speed use cases

A remote monitoring solution for a fleet tracking

Most widely available in North America, EMEA, and APAC

Highest of the three

Low

Not optimal for solutions that need long battery life

Most expensive of the three

LTE-M

Deploying battery-powered units at large scale that don’t require high bandwidths

A solution that monitors pressure on gas tanks

Most widely available in North America, South America, and parts of Europe

Medium; in between the data throughput of 4G LTE and NB-IoT

Low-medium

Optimal for solutions that need longer battery lives

Low

NB-IoT

Deploying battery-powered units at large scale that don’t require high bandwidths

A smart city application, such as parking metering 

Most widely available in North America, South America, EMEA, and parts of Europe

Lowest of the three

Medium

Optimal for solutions that need long battery lives

Low

All three of these cellular technologies offer robust mobility management, strong remote update capabilities, and extended coverage options.

The unique characteristics and needs of your solution will factor into which of these three cellular technologies is best suited for your IoT deployment. For example, if you’re deploying a solution that monitors pressure on gas tanks in Europe, the Middle East, or Africa (EMEA), NB-IoT will likely be the best choice. However, if you’re deploying a remote monitoring solution for ATMs in North America—which would require transmitting information as fast as possible in the event of breaches—4G LTE would likely be the best choice.

How Aeris Helps IoT Solution Providers Navigate Cellular Technology

At Aeris, we work closely with infrastructure architects, product managers, CTOs, and other key decision makers to determine the optimal cellular connectivity technology for their IoT solutions.

After you decide between 4G LTE, LTE-M, and NB-IoT, we’ll continue to guide you by providing hands-on support, ensuring that you give your customers high-quality experiences that keep them happy.

Ready to get connected? Contact us today.