The last time we discussed 5G and IMS. One of the main drivers for 5G is Machine-2-Machine (M2M) communication. But surely 5G is not the only technology which enables Internet of Things (IoT). Many operators already do support proprietary technologies such as SigFox or LoRaWAN. But there are also 3GPP standardized (Release 13) networks for IoT other than 5G. They are LTE-M and NB-IoT, and they both operate on licensed spectrum. These technologies came a bit later, however now it seems they are gaining momentum.
On GSMA pages you can now find an interactive map with the existing IoT deployments.
Let’s compare LTE-M and NB-IoT and take a look how they can benefit us.
- Refers to LTE CatM1. LTE-M is a low power wide area technology (LPWAN) which supports IoT through lower device complexity and provides extended coverage, while allowing the reuse of the LTE installed base.
- Makes possible battery to last as long as 10 years or more for a wide range of use cases (on a 5WH battery; Power class 23/20 dBm).
- LTE-M is supported by all major mobile makers, and the network can co-exist with 2G, 3G, and 4G networks and benefit from all the security and privacy features (e.g. authentication, confidentiality, data integrity, and mobile equipment identification).
- LTE-M supports voice sessions.
- LTE-M supports mobility.
- Deployed in North America, Australia
- Narrowband-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) is a 3GPP standards-based LPWAN technology. NB-IoT improves the power consumption of user devices, system capacity and spectrum efficiency, especially in deep coverage.
- NB-IoT is deployed “in-band” in spectrum allocated to LTE, ehre it does use resource blocks within a normal LTE carrier. Or it can utilize the unused resource blocks within a LTE carrier’s guard-band. Or the third option is to have a “standalone” deployment in dedicated spectrum, e.g. it may replace the existing GSM carrier.
- Battery life of more than 10 years is again possible for many use cases. A traditional mobile LTE device can work on 23dBm (Power Class 3) and a new one, less power hungry, at 20dBm (Power Class 5). 3GPP Release 14 adds an even less power hungry class at 14dBm (Power Class 6).
- Simpler and (likely) cheaper than LTE-M.
- NB-IoT supports stationary devices and it is focused specifically on indoor coverage.
- Also the NB-IoT is supported by all major mobile manufacturers, and can exist together with current 2G, 3G, and 4G mobile networks.
- Deployed in Europe, China
Some more details about ‘LTE-based’ IoT networks can be found in GSMA whitepares:
- NB-IoT Deployment Guide to Basic Feature set Requirements
- LTE-M Deployment Guide to Basic Feature set Requirements