Choosing the right connectivity for an IoT solution is easier than many businesses think. While there are many connectivity options available – and more coming in the future – often an IoT solution will fit most appropriately with at most two types of connectivity. Here is a quick guide that will help you choose the right connectivity for your IoT solution.
Cellular 2G (GPRS)
For solutions that require near ubiquitous coverage, offer mobility/roaming capabilities, rely on low connectivity prices and have relatively low bandwidth (data throughput) requirements, it is hard to beat cellular 2G. Solutions including remote asset tracking, connected parking meters, connected remote industrial equipment and more rely on cellular 2G for IoT connectivity.
Cellular 3G/4G (3GPP)
For solutions requiring near ubiquitous covers, offer high bandwidth and provide options for mobility/roaming, many customers rely on cellular 3G or 4G connectivity. Many operators around the world predict the start of 3G sunset in the following years. That is why if you are looking into long-term solutions in fleet tracking, video streams, connected cars and other – cellular 4G IoT connectivity is the technology for you. The ubiquity of cellular solutions can be beneficial in many ways. For the businesses with mobile assets moving across the globe, such as transportation or event management companies – cellular 4G solutions can ensure that their assets are connected regardless of location. Manufacturing companies using cellular IoT connectivity can experience the benefits of using single factory line for their devices, which can be activated in any part of the world. Service providers can achieve a plug-and-play set-up as well as better customer experience with their connected devices using 4G. It also opens opportunities for remote access to the devices for software installation or troubleshooting purposes.
Low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN) are currently being deployed in cities around the world. There are various choices for LPWAN including the ones’ operating in licensed (NB-IoT, LTE Cat M1) and unlicensed spectrum (LoRa, Sigfox). It is important to keep in mind that unlicensed LPWAN technologies are not interoperable, but if a business’ IoT requirements are fairly localized, LPWAN might be a great choice. LPWAN technologies provide long battery life (e.g., 5 to 10 years) for low bandwidth solutions.
Fixed-line and local networks
Fixed-line connectivity solutions are appropriate for some IoT solutions, particularly high bandwidth or high reliability fixed installations of equipment. Fixed lines also provide the Internet connection for the majority of WiFi devices. Technologies like Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Zigbee and proprietary radio networks are the most widely used as local networks. Each of these is suitable for different types of equipment, though WiFi and Bluetooth have the highest number of deployments. They typically require users to configure devices by pairing or providing passwords. While it is a good way of transferring files in our daily lives, it can be difficult to troubleshoot and configure when devices had limited user interfaces. Large-scale deployments often use Zigbee for increased range and better key management functionalities
But what will the future bring? When choosing a preferred technology for your IoT solution, it is often a good idea to think about the longer term. For the devices transmitting small amounts of data, 2G remains a good choice. At the same time, many mobile operators consider 2G inefficient from the network perspective and are actively pushing for 4G adoption. As 4G is globally available and provides a migration path to LPWAN it makes sense to develop any new solutions for this, especially as LTE CATM1 will provide an almost identical interface to devices and applications with increased coverage and battery performance. Fixed-line and local networks will remain preferred way of connectivity for local IoT solutions situated within a site.
5G solutions have already started appearing in different markets and it is already clear that cellular 5G will offer extremely high bandwidth with very low latency and high mobility/roaming capabilities. Solutions including those requiring high-definition video, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and other high bandwidth solutions will be able to rely on cellular 5G for IoT connectivity.
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