NB-IoT vs. Cat-M1 for Massive IoT Deployments
Manufactures are looking for ways to produce and release a vast amount of low-complexity, connected devices such as wearables, meters, trackers and low-cost sensors as part of the Massive IoT movement.
When developing a Massive IoT strategy, it is important to understand what technologies would best enable connectivity. Time and time again, organizations have narrowed down Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and Cat-M1 as the best options for data transmission standards.
Unlike other IoT devices, devices included in Massive IoT do not have high performance or low transmission latency requirements. While they do have steep requirements for battery life, these devices can be deployed in challenging radio environments like moving pieces of machinery or basements of buildings, and only need to send signals occasionally. The most common data transmission standards used for enabling the connectivity of Massive IoT are NB-IoT and Cat-M1. These technologies are both 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standardized technologies. Despite their similarities, they have distinctions that make each technology better suited for specific use cases.
NB-IoT functions by using low bandwidth signals (200 kHz) to enable communication within already existing LTE and GSM networks at a data rate that peaks at about 250 Kbps. The basic components of NB-IoT systems include specifically designed sensors and other devices. These devices will then collect data and send it to NB-IoT base stations or transmission nodes that are connected to cloud application servers. This allows for centralized performance monitoring and data analytics.
On the other hand, Cat-M1 uses a wider bandwidth of 1.4 MHz which allows the technology to obtain greater data rates of up to 1 Mbps. Cat-M1 modems and bases also include cellular access so they can be used in existing LTE networks. These bases allow the devices in an LTE band to communicate with each other.
Both technologies have extended Discontinuous Reception (eDRX) and Power Saving Mode (PSM) functionalities so they can sleep for long periods of time. This means that batteries can last up to ten years, meeting the consumption requirements of Massive IoT. However, NB-IoT has extreme coverage capabilities and thus is better for low data rate applications in challenging radio conditions. Cat-M1’s higher power capabilities make it more suitable for wearable devices, trackers, alarm panels and connected vehicles. While both technologies have benefits that make them ideal choices for Massive IoT, it is essential that the differences between them are understood so manufactures can best enable the connectivity of their products.
At SURE Universal, our IoT software platform provides a complete and standard-compliant solution that also allows our customers to enable connectivity.