The Internet of Things (IoT) connects more than consumer products like smart speakers and lights. Projections suggest that the total number of business IoT connections will surpass the number of consumer connections within the next few years. Most of those business IoT connections will be cellular, led by the automotive, industrial, utilities and transport sectors.1
What is cellular IoT and how is it different from consumer-grade connectivity? Learn about the advantages of cellular IoT and the different types of cellular connections used in IoT.
What is Cellular IoT?
Cellular IoT connections utilise the same 2G, 3G, or 4G (and in the future, 5G) networks as mobile phones. The difference is that IoT devices use M2M SIM cards and other types of connections specifically designed to meet the needs of commercial and industrial applications.
Benefits of Cellular IoT for Industry
Cellular IoT projects present the following benefits:
- Large coverage area
Since cellular IoT uses pre-existing mobile networks, there is an extensive coverage area already in place. This allows you to manage device deployments in different cities and countries. This is essential for any IoT project where accessing the data is key and specially for asset tracking, transportation and other global enterprise applications.
- Network switching/non-steered roaming
Unlike consumer SIMs, M2M SIM cards can switch between carriers with steered or non-steered open roaming capability. With a non-steered SIM card, the device will automatically connect to the network with the strongest signal in the area. This ensures constant, reliable connectivity and minimised downtime.
- Connectivity choices to suit your needs
There are several subcategories of cellular IoT connections (see below), and you can select the one that matches your data transmission needs. There’s no need to pay for the most expensive option if your devices don’t carry heavy data loads (like video) or require constant connectivity and immediate reaction time.
- Remote management and analytics
Cellular IoT devices may be managed remotely with an IoT platform, which lets you connect, disconnect, or troubleshoot devices wherever they are. With the right IoT platform, you can also monitor device downtime, usage and any other relevant metrics helping you to make the most of your IoT project.
- Private networks & security options
Any IoT application needs security measures to protect against unauthorised access. This is especially true for any device tracking sensitive information, such as healthcare devices, or those susceptible to malicious acts, like smart city technology. Cellular IoT devices can utilise private network technology (VPNs, APNs and IPsec protocols) to add layers of security to the device, network and data.
Types of Cellular IoT Connections & Their Uses
Cellular IoT connections include many sub-categories of network technology. The right one for your use case depends on factors like response times, cost and the amount of data being transferred.
- 2G and 3G: While these networks have been phased out for cell phone use in developed countries, 2G and 3G networks are still used today for devices like parking meters and vending machines. They can’t transmit video, however, which is a limiting factor.
- LTE Cat.0: For IoT projects with limited network needs, there’s Cat.0. It offers basic, limited features at the lowest cost. It’s commonly leveraged by connected vehicles, wearable devices and alarm systems. Widespread coverage exists in the Americas, Australia and Japan.
- LTE Cat M: The second generation of Cat.0, LTE Cat M is more effective and efficient than the first generation. It’s one of the most advanced connectivity types on the current LTE infrastructure, and offers some power saving modes ideal for long battery life.
Since many new IoT deployments will consider either LTE Cat M or NB-IoT connections, it’s worth pointing out that LTE Cat M supports a higher data rate and voice over the network, but it’s more expensive than NB-IoT.
- NB-IoT: Designed specifically for IoT, NB-IoT (also known as narrowband IoT) is long range, consumes low power, and is extremely reliable. It operates on 4G networks but not on the LTE bands, making it immune to interference from other types of connectivity, and readily available in many countries. However, it does have some latency and doesn’t support real-time transmission like voice calls.
This is one of the fastest growing types of connectivity, with 685 million connections worldwide predicted by 2021.2
- 4G LTE: 4G LTE is the latest in cellular technology, making it the go-to solution for high demand networks. It’s not very cost-effective, however, and is likely overkill for IoT projects with less demanding needs than a smartphone.
- LTE Advanced: A faster and more reliable version of standard LTE, LTE Advanced is utilised in projects that need the fastest possible response time, such as autonomous vehicles.
What about 5G?
Although commercial accessibility to 5G networks may become available later this year, 5G, the next generation of 4G networks, has yet to hit the market. Once it’s available, there will be a transition period while networks expand and SIM manufacturers can adapt. However, since not all IoT devices need advanced connectivity, it will be more expensive and offer more capabilities than many IoT devices need.
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Get Started with Cellular IoT
JT IoT offers many resources for moving forward with IoT. Read more at the following links or contact our team and describe the problem your business seeks to solve.
- Download: A Quick Guide to IoT Connectivity
- Blog: Massive IoT projects - Cat-M1 or NB-IoT?
- Guide: Everything You Need to Know About IoT SIMs