How LTE-M and NB-IoT Will Pave the Way for a 5G World
5G is almost here, and like 2G, 3G, and 4G before it, it will change the way we send and receive information.
What’s even more exciting is that 5G will enable countless automated wireless applications for the rapidly growing Internet of Things (IoT) market. By 2025, more than 75 billion devices will be connected to the Internet of Things, from disposable tracking devices used in shipping pharmaceuticals and perishables to smart city lighting and utilities.
With so much bandwidth needed for such a large-scale deployment of connections, low-power wide-area (LPWA) solutions will clear the path for smooth, uninterrupted operations in a 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 LPWA capability today and are catalysts in the future of 5G integration and growth worldwide.
The Power of 5G
Before getting into mobile IoT technology, let’s look a little closer at how 5G is poised to change the digital landscape. With so much speculation around what 5G is, what we do know is that it’s fast and it’s flexible.
With an unofficial rollout in 2020, 5G specs could put it at nearly 40 times faster than 4G while supporting up to 1 million connections per square kilometer, according to the Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (NGMN).
5G’s lightning-quick speeds will be useful for industries that could benefit from high-bandwidth, high-speed applications for Ultra-HD (4k) streaming and VR/AR applications.
Expect to see 5G mobile networks improve networks beyond the business world, where videos and files can be shared on the go, and move into applications for telematics operations, wireless temperature control for cold chains, and fleet management (among others).
Even more, Network World recently predicted that 5G would be the springboard for IoT innovations, such as automated lifecycle management, network slicing, software-defined networking, and secure, cloud-optimized distributed network applications. But in order to gain these advantages, existing enterprise networks need to be outfitted with the right chipsets.
Fortunately, LPWA technologies with LTE-M and NB-IoT will speed this along into reality.
Properties of LPWA Technologies, LTE-M vs NB-IoT
5G’s role in making our everyday lives easier and connecting countless industries to more efficient signal paths will be revolutionary.
Yitaek Hwang, with IoT for All, stresses the importance of LPWA technologies in the age of IoT: “Traditional cellular options such as 4G and LTE networks consume too much power. Moreover, they don’t fit well with applications where only a small amount of data is transmitted infrequently, for example, meters for reading water levels, gas consumption, or electricity use.”
As part of the low-power wide-area Mobile IoT solution for 5G networks, Cat-based chips, such as LTE-M and NB-IoT, will improve communications and open new doors for applications in industries, such as utilities, healthcare, fleet management, and agriculture in which small, intermittent blocks of data are useful.
Properties of LPWA technologies at a glance:
- Low cost per unit
- Minimal power consumption and device operation for years after initial charge
- Improved coverage, both indoors and outdoors, compared to existing WAN connections
- Security measures, including strong authentication and improved connectivity
- Simplified deployment
- Simplified network topology
- Easily upgradeable through network scalability
What are the differences between LTE-M and NB-IoT?
Introduced by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the same organization that brought 3G to the world, LTE-M is designed to support lower device complexity, massive connection density, low power consumption, low latency, and more with an extended coverage range.
According to Hwang, second generation LTE chips (LTE-M) will improve on previous versions by capping system bandwidth at 1.4 MHz, which is preferable for uses in which only small amounts of data transmission are needed, such as smart metering and temperature diagnostics.
Best of all, LTE-M is compatible with the existing LTE network, so outfitting an existing network with these chipsets can be done at minimal cost.
LTE-M will be most useful for long distance coverage across industries that need to track shipping, monitor drivers and goods, and get diagnostics and reports across moving operations.
Narrowband IoT, like LTE-M, was introduced by 3GPP as part of Release 13, which specifically focused on LPWA requirements of the IoT.
Whereas LTE-M is more focused on distance technology, NB-IoT will be useful in improving indoor coverage in places such as parking garages, warehouses, and underground facilities where signal loss and multi-tiered layers have traditionally posed a problem.
NB-IoT is designed to support multiple low throughput devices with low delay sensitivity. It will help to optimize networks as a low-cost, low-power consumption option. NB-IoT will also easily integrate with existing LTE deployments or stand alone.
Anticipating the 5G Revolution with LPWA Solutions from Telit
Worldwide pioneers in the IoT sector, Telit, offers the industry’s broadest portfolio of 3GPP’s Release 13 modules. Telit’s LTE-M and NB-IoT modules support cutting-edge features, such as power-saving mode and extended discontinuous reception.
Together, they allow the module to wake up periodically, exchange bits of data with the network, and sleep to save battery life through efficiency