What is Cellular IoT A Complete Guide

What is Cellular IoT A Complete Guide

Cellular IoT allows physical objects (such as sensors) to be connected to the internet via the same mobile networks that smartphones. Cellular IoT’s infrastructure simplicity and the advent of 5G make it a strong player within the connectivity space.

Although you might not be able to answer the question “What is cellular IoT?” I’m certain that you are familiar with the technology. Connect your iPhone to Google Maps and Instagram from a cellular network. They also carry your voice over the air. No longer are we content to just connect with our family and friends. We are now seeing the importance of connecting with physical objects, such as the parking meters, streetlights, and hospitals that we use every day in our urban environment, or the many industrial applications that connectivity can boost, like agriculture and manufacturing.

You may not be aware of how the same cellular technology that powers your smartphone is driving the next wave of innovation in “Internet of Things.” Ericsson projects that the number of devices connected to more than 20 cellular IoT networks will increase at an annual rate of 19% by 2023. This means, out of a total estimated 20+ billion IoT devices connected by 2023, Ericsson expects 3.5+ billion to be cellular – specifically, more than LTE and 5G and primarily in China and Greater North-East Asia.

What is the “cellular Internet of Things”? Why should we expect to hear more about it? I want to answer these two questions in plain English and non-technical language.

What is Cellular IoT and Why Should You Care?

What is cellular IoT?

It allows physical objects (such as sensors) to be connected to the internet by using the same technology as your smartphone. Instead of creating a separate network for your IoT devices to use, they can be accessed via the same mobile network that smartphones. Cellular IoT is an alternative to low-power, wide area networks (acronym LPWAN), such as the non-cellular LoRaWAN or Sigfox technologies. These operate in unlicensed bands.

Why is cellular IoT expanding so much?

Large-scale data flows can be facilitated by cellular networks all over the world. We don’t have to create a new infrastructure for cellular IoT. For a long time, however, cellular-enabled IoT devices required a lot of power. This limited their use to applications that had electricity. New cellular-enabled sensors are now capable of transmitting reasonable amounts of data over considerable distances, without draining the battery. With 5G on the horizon and cellular IoT looking bright, the future is bright.

What are the cellular IoT network connectivity options?

2G/3G, and 4G: These are the standard cellular network technologies that were initially designed for mobile phones but now work with other devices. Although 4G is now the most popular generation and 5G is available, IoT can still be supported in many markets using 2G or 3-G connections.

LTE Advanced: A faster version of standard LTE technology. It is suitable for IoT projects such as self-driving cars, which require quick responses.

LTE Cat 0: It is a low-cost, relatively low-power solution for IoT. It also supports voice and SMS. Voice and SMS also play a part in IoT. Think about device wake-ups and voice interaction with machines.

NB- IoT: The cellular response to low-power connectivity. It uses a compatible cellular connectivity technology. This is a great option for devices that require low data transmission requirements and are powered by batteries.

Snapshots of Two Key Forms Of Cellular IoT: NB-IoT and LTE-M

LTE-M and NB-IoT are the two main Cellular technologies used in cellular internet of things applications. You should know that there are important and specific distinctions between these two types of cellular IoT. However, in general, you can choose either one depending on whether LTE or GSM cellular infrastructure is in your area. Only the USA, Australia, Ireland, and the Netherlands have LTE coverage. GSM is available in many other regions, including Eastern Europe and Africa.


LTE is available in all major countries, including the USA, Ireland, and the Netherlands. There are ongoing deployments as well as regional trials. It is likely that LTE will surpass GSM in cellular IoT applications. LTE-M stands for “Long Term Evolution for Machines” and allows cellular IoT devices to piggyback on existing mobile networks. LTE-M devices that are enabled can communicate with the cloud and surf the same wave as the Instagram cat photos. It takes only a software update. LTE-M devices work best for “mission-critical” applications where real-time data transfers are critical. This includes self-driving cars and emergency devices in a smart city.


NB-IoT stands for “Narrowband IoT” and is ideal for areas with poor LTE coverage or when small amounts of information are required. This could be when you need to use a soil sensor for smart farming or an energy usage monitor for smart cities. NB-IoT only uses a small portion of the total bandwidth cell towers provide. If you are deploying to an area that has GSM standard cellular technology – specifically, Europe and developing parts of Africa and Asia – or, on the other hand, if you find that you only need to send small amounts of data Internet from time to time, NB-IoT may be right for you.

5G: The Future of IoT Cellular

5G is not as fast or stronger than the other “Gs” ( generations). It’s cool to stream Superbowl LII in 4K from your VR headset using 5G. However, 5G will likely work in tandem with LTE cellular networks and GSM cellular networks long into 2020.

Ultra-secure, private 5G networks for industrial IoT will be able to facilitate thousands, or even millions, of devices in a manufacturing and logistics setting. They will operate at 10x the speed of existing networks.

Written by
Mary Ischenko

Mary Ishchenko is an assistant editor at The Next Trends. She writes captivating blogs and articles. Additionally, she immerses herself in books and shares his travel experiences with touches of personal insight.

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