Wireless telemetry or Machine-to-Machine technology was adopted early by businesses that could see the value in data and it quickly became commonplace to deploy these systems in applications such as metering. From simple beginnings M2M has sophisticated to a point where it is almost synonymous with the Internet of Things, an association which is likely to strengthen further. IoT is becoming an increasingly prominent technology that has the potential, and is already making steps towards, radically altering our world like almost no other wireless technology that is currently undergoing commercial development.

Machine-to-machine communication can generally be categorised into one of two use-cases;

  1. Infrequent communications of small transmission size. Examples might include; household electrical meters reporting monthly usage, parking lot sensors indicating occupied status.
  2. Sustained communications of intermediate transmission size, for example, vehicles reporting live speed and traffic metrics.

Most competing IoT protocols meet one of the two needs, and most operators choose to deploy one of each network type. The most prominent IoT technology is Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), a technology designed for infrequent, small transmissions, and deployed over a mobile operator's existing cellular network. Operators who implement NB-IoT usually meet the requirement for larger transmissions by also upgrading their existing cellular network to support LTE-M device categories, or may choose to implement a dedicated LTE Cat-M1 (eMTC) carrier.

Many European and Central Asian operators have elected to build a national LoRa network as opposed to deploying NB-IoT. This can be due to limited low-band spectrum availability, technical hurdles, or simply that LoRa had already attained a larger ecosystem of users and devices in their geographic region.

IoT Protocols

LoRa Logo

LoRa® is a proprietary physical layer wireless protocol developed by US semiconductor corporation Semtech, designed to facilitate low power, low data rate communications in the unlicensed ISM bands between 137 and 1020 MHz.

Unlike other IoT standards such as NB-IoT and LTE-M which are constructed as national networks, LoRa is most commonly implemented on an ad-hoc basis with companies building local or regional coverage areas as needed. LoRa networks are constructed in a similar manner to traditional mobile and wireless networks, where a radio transmitter+antenna unit is installed on a tower or ...

LTE-M Cat-M Logo

LTE-M is a type of LTE network published by 3GPP in Releases 13 to 15 specifications. LTE-M is a low power wide area technology which supports IoT through lower device complexity and provides extended coverage, leveraging a mobile operator's existing LTE base stations. LTE-M finds its place as a (comparatively) high data rate service for more data-hungry IoT applications.

LTE-M is simply an extension to the existing 3GPP LTE standards, with Release 13 specifying a brand new Cat-M1 UE capable of operating on a bandwidth 1.08 MHz (i.e., 6 PRB's) within an existing LTE deployment, or 1.4 MHz in ...

Narrowband LTE, NB-IoT LTE Cat-NB1 logo

Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is a 3GPP Release 13 feature that reuses various principles and building blocks of the LTE physical layer and higher protocol layers and defines a new Cat-NB1 UE. The standard leverages a mobile operator's existing LTE base stations permitting rapid time-to-market. NB-IoT has been designed to offer extended coverage compared to traditional networks through the use of an ultra-narrow bandwidth of only 180 kHz.

In comparison to a conventional LTE deployment, NB-IoT offers an additional 20 dB of link budget, equating to roughly ten times the coverage of a normal base ...

Zigbee Alliance logo

ZigBee is a specification developed by the ZigBee Alliance based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for wireless personal area networks (WPANs). ZigBee operates in the ISM radio bands, and it defines a general-purpose, inexpensive, self-organising, mesh network for industrial control, embedded sensing, medical data collection, smoke and intruder warning, building automation, home automation, and domotics, etc.

ZigBee differs substantially from many other IoT protocols as it has been designed specifically for operation within 10 to 100 metres (radio line of sight). It is not designed for deployment ...