LTE-M vs. NB-IoT: Cellular IoT for a 5G World

June 15, 2022

5G is here, and like 2G, 3G and 4G, it is changing how we send and receive information. 

5G is already enabling countless automated wireless applications for the rapidly growing Internet of Things (IoT) market. By 2025, more than 30 billion devices will be connected to the IoT, including: 

The Broadest LTE-M and NB-IoT
Module Portfolio

A lot of bandwidth is needed for large-scale, high-speed connection deployments. Cellular low-power wide-area (LPWA) standards make way for sensors and short-data-burst transactional devices’ uninterrupted operations in the speedy, 5G-centered technoverse.  

Mobile IoT technologies, such as Long-Term Evolution machine-type communications (LTE-M) and narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), deliver secure and cost-effective cellular LPWA capabilities. They are catalysts in future 5G integration and growth worldwide. 

LTE-M and NB-IoT will coexist with the 5G network. They are the only cellular technologies to support cellular LPWA use cases for the next decade and beyond. 

The Power of 5G

5G logo.

Before getting into cellular LPWA technology, let’s look at how 5G contributes to the digital landscape.  

With so much hype around what 5G is, the consumer side of the industry, led by smartphones, says it’s fast and flexible. 

By the end of 5G’s evolutionary cycle around 2030, its specs will have put it at dozens of times faster than 4G while supporting up to 1 million connections per square kilometer. 

On the IoT side, 5G’s lightning-quick speeds will be useful for industries that benefit from high-bandwidth, high-speed applications, such as: 

  • Fixed wireless access (FWA)
  • Ultra-HD (4K) streaming 
  • Virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) cameras and devices 

Expect to see 5G operators improve networks beyond the business world. These enhancements will enable videos and file sharing on the go. Then, they’ll move into video telematics operations and wireless forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera-powered solutions for cold chains and fleet management (among others). 

Even more, Network World predicted that 5G would be the springboard for IoT innovations, such as: 

  • Automated life cycle management
  • Network slicing  
  • Software-defined networking  
  • Secure, cloud-optimized distributed network applications  

Existing enterprise networks must be outfitted with the right mix of devices across all standards — fast and low power — inside 5G to gain these advantages. 5G cellular LPWA technologies with LTE-M and NB-IoT are speeding this into reality. 

LTE-M vs. NB-IoT: Properties of Cellular LPWA Technologies 

5G’s role in making our everyday lives easier and connecting countless industries to more efficient signal paths will be revolutionary. 

LTE-M and NB-IoT improve communication options and open new doors for applications in industries in which small, intermittent data blocks are useful, including:  

Properties of Cellular LPWA Technologies at a Glance:

  • Minimal power consumption and device operation for years after the initial charge 
  • Improved coverage indoors and outdoors compared to existing WAN connections 
  • Low cost per unit
  • Security measures, including strong authentication and enhanced connectivity 
  • Simplified deployment
  • Simplified network topology
  • Easily upgradeable through network scalability

What Are the Differences between LTE-M and NB-IoT?


LTE-M was introduced in Release 13 of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the same organization that brought 3G. This technology is designed with an extended coverage range to support:  

  • Lower device complexity 
  • Massive connection density 
  • Low power consumption 

 LTE-M runs on 1.4 MHz spectrum bandwidth. This bandwidth is preferable for use cases that require small amounts of data transmission under full mobility, such as:  

Best of all, LTE-M has been rolled out extensively across existing LTE networks. According to GSMA, 60 operators were offering this service as of May 2022. 

LTE-M is most useful for mobile coverage across industries that must track shipping, monitor drivers and goods, and get diagnostics and reports across moving operations. 


NB-IoT, like LTE-M, was introduced by 3GPP as part of Release 13, which specifically focused on IoT’s cellular LPWA requirements. 

LTE-M focuses on mobile applications. NB-IoT is ideal for battery-operated devices and fixed indoor coverage in places where signal loss and multitiered layers have posed a problem, such as: 

  • Smart gas and water meters 
  • Parking garages 
  • Warehouses 
  • Underground facilities 

NB-IoT supports dense clusters of low throughput devices with high latency tolerance. It optimizes network resource use, particularly spectrum, while providing a low-cost option and low-power consumption. NB-IoT also easily integrates with existing LTE deployments. According to GSMA, 110 operators had NB-IoT networks in May 2022. 

Anticipating the 5G Revolution with Cellular LPWA Solutions

As a worldwide IoT pioneer, Telit Cinterion offers the industry’s broadest portfolio of 3GPP Release 13 and 14 cellular LPWA modules. Our LTE-M and NB-IoT modules provide exceptional deployment results. They provide industry-leading radio frequency performance and fully incorporate the technologies’ features, including: 

  • Extended Discontinuous Reception (eDRX) 
  • Power Saving Mode (PSM) 

These capabilities allow the module to wake up periodically, exchange bits of data with the network and sleep to save battery life through efficiency. 

Speak with our IoT experts to learn more about our cellular LPWA modules.