With the rise of smart cities, the need to develop and combine sensing technologies, high performing computation infrastructure, and long range wide area networks to collect and process vast amount of complex data is felt across the globe. In order to tackle the challenges of large urban centers, many Internet of Things technologies are being leveraged.
The Internet of Things (IoT), as a concept, is defined as a large set of interconnected devices, with internet presence that is capable of communication and generating useful data. The characteristics of such IoT devices include small data sharing on certain interval, connected over the internet or connected to each other, wireless, battery or solar powered, wide availability, even in difficult areas, fixed or moving etc. Wide area networks can be extremely helpful here.
Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) and IoT
Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) have enabled the widespread adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) technology. These networks are designed to address the need for low-cost, low-energy consumption, and long-range connectivity for IoT devices.
There are two main types of LPWAN solutions namely LoRaWAN and cellular LPWAN such as NB-IoT. Both these technologies use different wireless communication protocols, and there are several differences between them.
LoRaWAN is a wireless communication technology that uses the LoRa (Long Range) protocol for long-range and low-power IoT applications. It is an open standard that operates on unlicensed spectrum, and it can achieve a range of up to 15km in rural areas and up to 5km in urban areas.
LoRaWAN can support thousands of end-devices with a single gateway, and it operates in the sub-gigahertz frequency band. Its low-power consumption and long battery life make it suitable for IoT applications such as smart cities, agriculture, and industrial automation.
Cellular LPWAN is a wireless communication technology designed for low-power and long-range IoT applications using cellular networks such as 3G, 4G, and 5G. Such network specifications are designed to operate on licensed spectrum frequencies which means that they must be used by network operators.
NB-IoT (Narrow Band-IoT)
The NB-IoT, also known as LTE CAT NB1, technology is a type of cellular LPWAN that provides connectivity for low-cost and long-range IoT applications. It uses the licensed spectrum and operates in the cellular network frequency range from 600 MHz to 5 GHz.
According to 3GPP, NB-IoT is the new radio added to the LTE platform and it is optimized for low bandwidth use.
NB-IoT can support up to 200,000 devices per cell, and it offers greater reliability and security than LoRaWAN. It also provides higher data rate transmissions than LoRaWAN, making it suitable for applications such as smart meters, smart lighting, and smart cities.
The difference between LoRaWAN and NB-IoT
LoRaWAN and NB-IoT are two prominent technologies that are in use for IoT connections along with other proprietary wide area networks such as Sigfox and LoRA. According to a report, both these technologies, LoRaWAN and NB-IoT, will account for approx. 85.5% of all LPWAN connections by the end of year 2023.
Licensed and Unlicensed Spectrum
One significant difference between LoRaWAN and NB-IoT is the spectrum in which they operate. LoRaWAN uses unlicensed spectrum, while cellular LPWAN NB-IoT uses licensed spectrum. It means that LoRaWAN can operate in different frequency bands without being subject to national regulations making it ideal for companies that want to deploy IoT solutions globally.
Cellular LPWANs such as NB-IoT offer better coverage (11 to 13 miles) and reliability than LoRaWAN (7 to 10 miles). However, cellular LPWAN is more expensive than LoRaWAN, especially in terms of power consumption, making it more suitable for applications that require higher data rates and a smaller number of devices
NB-IoT, offered by 3GPP, costs more being a licensed protocol unlike LoRaWAN (offered by LoRa alliance) which is unlicensed. People can set up their own networks using LoRaWAN while NB-IoT is only available through established mobile network operators.
The device and chip cost is also very low in LoRaWAN in comparison to NB-IoT (a difference of 4-5 USD).
Need of Gateways
While using LoRaWAN, gateways are needed but NB-IoT doesn’t need gateways to be operational as it is offered through established mobile networks.
Compared to NB-IoT, LoRaWAN consumes less power. Hence, it is more suitable for projects where higher refresh rate is required.
Apart from that, due to less power consumption, battery life is higher (15+) than NB-IoT (10+ years).
To conclude, LoRaWAN and NB-IoT, both are Low Power Wide Area Networks and most IoT devices are using these network standards. Not only these technologies have pushed the IoT use, the coverage is also far ranging, accessible to even remote and difficult areas.
LoRaWAN standard is unlicensed and cheaper and the NB-IoT is licensed and slightly costly. However, connection is more reliable when it comes to NB-IoT.
- Last updated on Jul 07, 2023