What should one do when when deciding on which technology is best for deployment of their private wireless network for IoT? This all depends on the application. With the impending availability of 5G cellular IoT, this will no doubt become an increasingly popular option. But there are several other wireless connectivity options to consider, many of which offer similar connectivity and performance. For instance in wide-area installations where battery life is a primary factor, LPWAN options such as LoRaWAN may be the better way to go. For mission critical applications, where security is key, a cellular option using LTE-M or NB-IoT offers an excellent alternative. The article that follows does an excellent job of laying out the different options for deploying private wireless network technologies based upon application.
A private cellular network for IoT, operating on LTE bands, can provide the best connectivity for critical applications
Vendors of private LTE networks for IoT do not usually compare their offerings with other wide-area, low-power options such as LoRaWAN. They focus, instead, on showing the advantages of cellular over more traditional connectivity such as WiFi.
For enterprises wishing to deploy a private IoT network, cellular offers significant connectivity advantages over other wireless technologies, including LoRaWAN. LTE is more secure, can cover much larger areas, and can provide low-latency and high data rates.
Private LTE wireless networks, however, have two main disadvantages compared with other LPWAN offerings: they use more power and are more expensive to deploy and maintain. Also, devices using cellular networks need more expensive modems to operate; therefore, they are costly compared to other offerings.
Even devices using the relatively new low-power LTE IoT offerings, Cat-NB Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and Class M LTE (LTE-M) consume significantly more power than a LoRaWAN powered unit. For example, NB-IoT has a lower latency compared to LoRa due to the higher device output power.
Additionally, LoRaWAN networks only operate on unlicensed spectrum, which is usually not the case for LTE. While there are several offerings, especially in the US and Asia, using sub-gigahertz unlicensed frequencies, most of the NB-IoT and LTE-M networks operate in licensed spectrum.
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