November 5, 2020

Why LTE-M is a Game Changer: Finding the Right Tool for the Job

When building an IoT solution, why should the type of radio access technology matter? There are a wide range of networks available, and the only important thing is that the connectivity gets the information from point A to point B, right? Sure, the communication should be secure as well, it needs to be reliable, and the cost needs to be low. But other than that, why should it matter if the connectivity happens over 2G or 5G?

The short answer is that choosing the right radio access technology when building an IoT device can be the definitive factor that makes or breaks the business case of the entire IoT solution.

Historically, choosing a radio access technology that fit the use case could be challenging, since all technologies have had their origins on the consumer side of cellular networks. The tried and trusted 2G technology means cheap modules, but low speeds and high latency. 4G, on the other hand, brings very high data speeds and low latency, but higher power requirements and device cost. A common limitation of all of these technologies, however, is that none of them are designed for IoT communication. And since IoT devices does not communicate in the same way as humans, this can become a significant limitation.

As an example, consider an IoT use case where a device communicates very infrequently, but when it does communicate, information needs to be sent and received in near real time. Maybe the device is also deployed remotely, meaning that it needs to be able to live a long time on a single battery charge in order for the solution to be feasible. “Near real time“ means that you need LTE, but that creates a problem with high power consumption, resulting in you needing a large and costly battery. In the end, the device becomes too expensive, and you can’t justify the business case.

Why LTE-M makes the difference

Luckily, there now is an alternative technology that is truly built for IoT, and it’s called LTE-M. LTE-M is an LPWA (Low Power, Wide Area) technology that enables very low latency, very low power consumption, and low device cost. It does not have the same 100 Mbit/s data speeds as traditional LTE, but for the majority of IoT devices, LTE-M’s 1Mbit/s is more than enough when sending a small amount of data. More importantly, LTE-M supports power saving features that enable the device to “sleep” when not sending data, meaning that a device can last for years on a small battery.

LTE-M has many other benefits for IoT such as mobility, roaming support, and extended coverage features. LTE-M will also be a part of the 5G standard, meaning it’s here to stay. LTE-M will truly be a game changer for IoT, since it now becomes feasible to launch a range of new IoT solutions that were previously not possible when based on older technologies. You no longer need to compromise when creating a IoT solution, you can finally choose the right tool for the job. And it’s called LTE-M.

If you would like to learn more about how IoT can help your business, please get in touch.

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