The Difference Between NB-IoT and 5G, Cat-1
5G is quickly becoming the main catalyst for the next wave of device and platform architecture, enabling us to build a new generation of fast IoT connections on a larger scale.
At some point in the early 1920s, mobile phones may transition to 5G, however, the future of the Internet of Things is about to emerge. At the 2018 LII Superbowl in Minneapolis, Verizon used 5G to demonstrate 4K video streaming to VR headsets in New York City. Samsung and Korea Telecom (KT) transmitted self-driving car data and 360-degree camera views through 5G-supported edge servers, dazzling the Olympics.
This is very exciting for our industry, but the confusion in decoding the technical acronyms surrounding 5G technology may limit our ability to understand how 5G can change the IoT landscape. For example, searching for "NB-IoT and LTE-M" will display a complex summary like the following:
These charts did not help me at all. I got the impression that 3GPP (the team behind 3G) tried to stop new players by overwhelming them with mysterious acronyms and exclusive technical definitions. The naming convention indicates that 4G is faster than 3G and faster than 2G, so we assume that 5G may follow this trend, but "Cat-1" and "EC-GSM"? What does that mean?
Don't worry! I did my research and translated the technical details of each 5G option into non-professional terms so that you can better understand these emerging forms of cellular IoT.
Where did the Industrial Internet of Things originate?
The popularity and popularity of IoT devices has led to the rise of low-power, wide-area network (LP-WAN) options such as SigFox, LoRa and Weightless. (If you want to know, this is why LPWAN is important in IoT and the breakdown of different options). Traditional cellular options such as 4G and LTE networks consume too much power. In addition, they are not suitable for applications that do not frequently transmit small amounts of data, such as meters for reading water levels, gas consumption, or electricity usage.
Cat-1 is currently the only fully available cellular IoT option and represents an early push to use existing LTE networks to connect IoT devices. Although the performance is not as good as the 3G network, it is a great choice for IoT applications that require a browser interface or voice. The main attraction is that it has been standardized, and more importantly, it is easy to transition to the Cat-1 network. Experts predict that with the sunset of 3G and eventually 4G technologies, Cat-1 (and Cat-M1) networks will replace them.
It is important to understand that the different cellular IoT options do not have to be mutually exclusive. Click "tweet" cat-0
In order for LTE-based IoT networks to succeed, they need to have the following characteristics:
1) Long battery life,
2) Low cost,
3) Support a large number of devices,
4) Enhanced coverage (e.g. better signal penetration through walls)
Cat-0 optimizes cost because it eliminates the function of supporting the high data rate requirements of Cat-1 (dual receiver chain, duplex filter). Although Cat-1 is replacing 3G, Cat-0 is an agreement for Cat-M to replace 2G as the basis for a cheaper option.
Cat-M1 / CAT-M / LTE-M
Cat-M (officially called LTE Cat-M1) is usually regarded as the second-generation LTE chip built for IoT applications. It has completed the initial cost and power consumption reduction of Cat-0. By limiting the maximum system bandwidth to 1.4 MHz (instead of Cat-0’s 20 MHz), Cat-M has specific use cases for LPWAN applications, such as smart metering, where only a small amount of data transmission is required.
But the real advantage of Cat-M over other options is that Cat-M is compatible with existing LTE networks. For operators like Verizon and AT&T, this is good news because they don’t need to spend money to build new antennas, although connecting Cat-M to the LTE network requires a software patch. The existing customer base of Verizon and AT&T is likely to conclude that Cat-M is by far the best choice. Finally, it is almost certain that 5G and LTE technologies will coexist in the 2020s, so the backward compatibility of Cat-M is a bonus.
The goal of NB-IoT (also known as Cat-M2) is similar to Cat-M; however, it uses DSSS modulation instead of LTE radio. Therefore, NB-IoT does not operate in the LTE frequency band, which means that providers have higher upfront costs to deploy NB-IoT.
Nevertheless, NB-IoT is touted as a potentially cheaper option because it eliminates the need for gateways. Other infrastructures usually have a gateway that aggregates sensor data, and then the gateway communicates with the main server. (This is a more in-depth explanation of the gateway). However, with NB-IoT, sensor data will be sent directly to the main server. Therefore, Huawei, Ericsson, Qualcomm and Vodafone are actively investing in commercial applications of NB-IoT.
EC-GSM (formerly EC-EGPRS)
EC stands for extended coverage. EC-GSM is a GSM network optimized for the Internet of Things, and is a wireless protocol used by 80% of smart phones in the world. As the name suggests, EC-GSM can be deployed in existing GSM networks-with huge advantages in practicability and modularity, because a simple software can implement EC-GSM connections in 2G, 3G and 4G networks. EC-GSM also has specific use cases in non-Western regions, such as Malaysia, Africa and Middle East countries, where 2G is still a popular standard. It is said that Ericsson, Intel and Orange have completed EC-GSM field trials earlier this year. However, EC-GSM did not generate as much buzz as Cat-M or NB-IoT.
Why you should need know it?
If you are a mobile operator provider, you will be forced to choose to deploy technologies to meet narrowband IoT applications.
For the rest of us, it is important to understand that these different options are not necessarily mutually exclusive. This extends to other LPWAN players such as SigFox, LoRa and Weightless.
The Internet of Things covers a wide range of applications. Sometimes you need high bandwidth, just like real-time monitoring. For asset tracking, the data throughput is small, but as the object moves, there will inevitably be a lot of switching. Smart meters and many smart city use cases require small data transfers once or twice a day. This means that no single technology (or even 5G) can meet the specific needs of IoT solutions/devices.
Fragmentation in the Internet of Things is terrible, but sometimes it is necessary evil because the Internet of Things is so broadly defined. Generally speaking, the most important question is, what are the specific requirements and nuances of my use case? The answer to this question will guide you to understand which connection option is best for you.
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