Home > News > NB-IoT vs LTE-M, the new IoT king of the 4G world
01 Sep 2020

 

During the last years, two Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies have grown significantly in the world of the Internet of Things. NB-IoT and LTE-M will compete for the throne of the low bandwidth cellular communications in the coming years.

 

What is NB-IoT?

NB-IoT is a technology designed to allow communications of small quantities of data during a long lifecycle. It is an open standard technology based on LTE which uses a low power narrowband network in order to offer high connection density, low cost, long battery life and indoor coverage.

 

What is LTE-M?

LTE-M, also known as LTE Cat-M1, is a technology designed for IoT applications that require low data transmission during long time periods. The main advantage of LTE-M is its higher data rate, lower latency, mobility, and voice over the network, but it requires more bandwidth, is more costly, and cannot be put into guard band frequency band.

 

The following table compares different features and shows the strengths and debilities of each technology on Release 13:

Features NB-IoT LTE-M

 Bandwidth

180 KHz 1,4 MHz

 Downlink peak speed

127 kbit/s

1 Mbit/s

 Uplink peak speed

159 kbit/s 1 Mbit/s

 Duplex mode

Half duplex Full or hall duplex

 Battery lifetime

 10 years  10 years

 Frequency deployment

LTE Band, LTE Guard
band and standalone
(GSM bands)
LTE Band

 Number of antennae

1 (SISO) 1 (SISO)

 Transmission power

20 / 23 dBm 20 / 23 dBm

 Indoor penetration

Excellent Good

 Cells capacity

200.000 1.000.000

 Data and voice

Data Data and voice

 Mobility

No Yes

 Modules cost

10% less
than LTE-M
< $10

 

Networks availability

The best way to take a look to the worldwide coverage availability of NB-IoT and LTE-M it is to visit the official map published on GSMA’s website. It is frequently updated and it shows the status of the IoT technologies on each country and region.

Below you will find the link to access the map and a recent screenshot of the network deployment:

LTE-M vs NB-IoT deployment map
Credit: GSMA

 

Use cases and applications

NB-IoT and LTE-M can coincide in several points, but it is possible to distinguish between applications where NB-IoT take the lead, and others where LTE-M meets perfectly with the project needs.

Starting with NB-IoT, it perfectly fits in static monitoring applications where a low data transmission is required. On the other hand, LTE-M will be the best technology for tracking and mobility applications with higher data transmission requirements.

LTE-M vs NB-IoT deployment map
Credit: Sierra Wireless

 

Take the leap to 4G LTE Cat 1 or Cat 4

One more doubt has been presented with the emergence of NB-IoT and LTE-M; does these protocols have capacity to perform gateway functions and centralize sensors data? In most cases, the answer is NO. These technologies have been designed to directly report data from the sensors to the cloud. NB-IoT and LTE-M will hardly be enough to send and receive data from multiple sensors at the same time. For these requirements, 4G LTE Cat 1 or Cat 4 will still be our recommendation.

 

If you are interested in learning more about topics related to Internet of Things, Big Data, Industry 4.0 and Analytics, do not hesitate to continue reading our publications in the News section.

 

Documentation and other information

    NB-IoT vs LTE-M deployment map

 


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