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One of the often ignored and less talked about portion of IoT is the fact that not all IoT devices are deployed in an environment where they can connect to the Internet easily using a WiFi network. In fact, some of the most ingenious uses of IoT machines comes from their deployment in remote locations from where the only way for the IoT modules to communicate back to the hub is through cellular data.
Now despite having a cellular connection, machines with embedded IoT capabilities are not even close to being as big of a data hog as our smartphones are. In fact, most IoT devices limit their interaction to a maximum of few hundred Kbits of data across the LTE bands. In spite of that, allocating bandwidth to these devices is a must and come along with a new set of challenges for the traditional mobile carriers.
Challenges of IoT Cellular Communications
While there are quite a few technical and economical challenges to accommodating IoT devices on the low-frequency cellular networks, we have highlighted a few of the salient points down below.
- The narrowband LTE standards that are being used right now wouldn’t be able to hit the sub 5$ price point that has been touted for many individual modules.
- However, using an entirely different radio setup from a third party outside the traditional GSM providers may harm the economy of scale and limit possibilities of ramping up deployment options in the future.
- Carriers generally focus on high average revenue per user and as such have networks that are built for high-speed data transfers. However, carrier plans for more than 10$/month for each IoT connected Node are not feasible.
So what can we do to solve these pressing issues? There are two new technologies that are at the forefront of cellular connectivity right now in the IoT space, and we will touch base with both in our ending segment.
IoT Demands A New Type Of Cellular Operator
As IoT is in its nascent stages of development, we find that there is no standard protocol in terms of cellular connectivity for these connected devices. However, from the rubble of various cellular operators and technologies, two of them have emerged victorious and are seeing fairly wide scale deployment in various countries across the world.
#1. LoRa specified LTE communications on the 800-900mHz band
Orange one of the biggest backers f the LoRa specification have been rolling out it’s IoT cellular services in the yet unlicensed 800-900mHz band. The benefits of using LoRa is that although the cost per month is higher at this point in time, having the backing of already established Carriers makes it a viable option for rapid expansion.
“LoRa is self adapting, we don’t have to do site surveys because the gateways adapt to distances…It’s less than one-tenth the cost of a cellular deployment so it low cost enough to cover a country,” said Buffmire.
#2. Sigfox low-end Internet connectivity over the 800-900mHz band
Walking an entirely different path is Sigfox, who has one of the slowest cellular networks on the planet right now deployed on the 800-900mHz band. However, the slow nature of the network makes it highly cost efficient and with a total bandwidth of 200kHz and each frequency channel being 100Hz, the Sigfox network can listen to thousands of messages at once. The Sigfox network is particularly effective in crowded and interference filled zones like the 900mHz band in the USA.
So which one of these two technologies will make the cut? If you ask us, we think that it would probably be a mixture of LoRa, Sigfox, Wireless along with other newer forms of connectivity that will thrust IoT into its connected future.