Cellular IoT: The Ultimate Guide to Experiencing Seamless Connectivity

Cellular IoT connects physical objects to the internet by using the same mobile network as smartphones. This article explains a variety of technical categories and applicable sectors of cellular IoT while also assisting you in selecting the best cellular gateway for your project.
Cellular IoT to Experience Seamless Connectivity
Table of Contents

Cellular IoT is a method of linking physical objects to the internet by using the same mobile network as smartphones. It enables the huge flow of data between sensors, actuators, and other devices while saving money by avoiding the need to establish additional network infrastructure. This article explains numerous technical categories and applicable sectors of cellular IoT, as well as assisting you in selecting the best cellular gateway for your project.

What is Cellular IoT?

IoT devices may connect to one another and communicate with one another using cellular network technology, which is referred to as cellular IoT. It makes use of the cellular infrastructure that already exists to offer connection for a variety of IoT applications and devices. Without relying on Wi-Fi or wired connections, cellular IoT enables connectivity to the internet and data sharing between devices.

Because network administrators split regions into “cells,” the network is referred to be cellular. A cell tower is present in every cell, and it uses a separate frequency from cell towers close by. For instance, if you arrange the cells in a hexagonal pattern, you only need 7 distinct frequencies to prevent adjacent cells from using the same frequency.

You may also be interested in How to Build Your Private LTE Network? Complete Guide

cellular iot

Types of Cellular IoT

Cellular IoT technology is LTE Cat-M1 or NB-IoT, which can be divided into many types:

2G 3G 4G

The standard cellular network technologies—2G, 3G, and 4G—were initially only intended for mobile phones but now function with a variety of devices. Although 5G has recently been launched and 4G is the current generation, the Internet of Things is still supported in many markets using 2G or 3G connectivity.

LTE Advanced

LTE Advanced is an improved form of 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) technology, sometimes known as 4.5G or 4G+. LTE Advanced offers better performance, faster data speeds, and expanded network capacity by building on the basis of LTE.

NB-IoT

The Low-Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technology known as NB-IoT (Narrowband Internet of Things) was created particularly for IoT applications. It is a cellular-based network technology that uses licensed spectrum and allows a variety of IoT devices to communicate reliably across long distances.

You may also be interested in Understanding NB-IoT vs. LTE-M Technology

LTE Cat 1

A subset of LTE technology known as Cat 1 provides data rates of up to 10 Mbps, minimal latency, strong coverage, and modest power consumption. In IoT applications, asset tracking, industrial monitoring, and other low- to medium-data rate use cases, it is extensively utilised and widely adopted.

LTE Cat 4

LTE Cat 4 is a subset of LTE technology that enables up to 150 Mbps of downlink and 50 Mbps of uplink data speeds, as well as minimal latency and strong coverage. Applications demanding more data throughput, such streaming video, online gaming, and quick web browsing, frequently employ it.

LTE Cat M1

A low-power, wide-area (LPWA) Internet of Things technology is LTE Cat M1. Low data rates of up to 1 Mbps are offered, together with good power efficiency for longer battery life, a large coverage area, and compatibility for a large number of connected devices. LTE Cat M1 is widely utilised in applications including asset tracking, smart metres, industrial monitoring, and agricultural since it is affordable.

Feature4G/LTELTE AdvancedNB-IoTLTE Cat 1LTE Cat 4LTE Cat M1
Data SpeedRelatively highVery highRelatively lowHighRelatively highLow
LatencyLowVery lowVery lowVery lowVery lowVery low
Spectrum UtilizationDigitalDigitalDigitalDigitalDigitalDigital
Power ConsumptionModerateModerateLowModerateModerateLow
Coverage RangeGoodGoodExcellentGoodGoodGood
Deployment StatusWidely deployedDeploying in some regionsDeployingDeployedDeployedDeployed

NB-IoT and LTE Cat M1 are two technologies that are very suitable for IoT projects. NB-Iot is specially designed for IoT applications, providing long-distance connectivity and deep indoor penetration with excellent coverage. The technology is suitable for deployment in remote and hard-to-reach areas.

It is optimized for power efficiency, enabling devices to run on battery power for extended periods of time and supporting high-density connected devices. It is used in areas such as remote monitoring, utilities and metering, and smart cities

LTE Cat M1 is designed for low-power, wide-area IoT applications. Compared to NB-IoT, it offers relatively low data speeds but is optimized for power efficiency. Exhibits excellent coverage and supports high-density connected devices. It is a cost-effective solution for IoT deployment, providing reliable and efficient connectivity for various IoT applications, including asset tracking, smart meters, industrial monitoring, agriculture, etc.

While NB-IoT is well suited for IoT smart sensor nodes and end devices, it may not be suitable for use in gateways. NB-IoT has limited bandwidth, and gateways typically require higher data transfer rates to aggregate and process data from multiple devices and send it to the cloud or other network endpoints. NB-IoT is optimized for power efficiency and long battery life, which can result in higher latency compared to other cellular technologies.

Gateways, especially those that process real-time data or require near-instant responses, often benefit from lower-latency connections. In terms of device density, NB-IoT is designed to support a high density of connected devices in a given area, while a gateway is a central device that manages connections from numerous end devices. Therefore, in terms of requirements, LTE Cat M1 and related technologies are very suitable for deployment in IoT gateways.

How does cellular IoT work?

The working of a cellular IoT network can be broken down into three main components: IoT SIM card, chipset/module and frequency band:

IoT SIM card

IoT SIM cards play an important role in allowing devices to utilize cellular IoT networks. M2M or IoT SIM cards can often connect to multiple networks, unlike traditional SIM cards that can only connect to one network. This is because in IoT, roaming is a more important factor than your personal or business phone connection.

sim card

Chipset/IoT gateway

Depending on the implementation of the solution, you need a suitable hardware design counterpart. For example, if you design hardware, you might use a cellular chipset or an off-the-shelf cellular gateway.

cellular gateways

Frequency band

As we’ve explained above, cellular networks use the 800MHz to 5GHz radio frequency band for different technologies. The last to hit the market is 5G, which operates on higher frequency bands. For IoT that needs to target longer range or deep indoor coverage, lower frequency bands are usually preferred. NB-IoT and LTE Cat M1 support hardware that primarily operates in low frequency bands.

All three of these aspects come together to form a successful cellular IoT solution, as IoT devices must meet country compliance, SIM card operator coverage, correct frequency band, and choose the chip or IoT gateway accordingly.

LTE workflow

Cellular IoT application

Here are some common applications of cellular gateways:

Environmental monitoring

Applications for environmental monitoring that use cellular gateways include weather stations, water quality monitoring, and air quality monitoring. They make it possible for sensor data to be gathered and transmitted to centralised platforms for analysis, facilitating deliberative decision-making and environmental management.

Security and surveillance

Cellular gateways allow for remote monitoring and control in security and surveillance systems. They provide real-time video streaming, alarm alerts, and access management by connecting IP cameras, access control systems, and other security equipment to central monitoring stations.

Agriculture and farming

Cellular gateways are used in farming and agricultural applications for remote monitoring and control of weather stations, soil sensors, animal monitors, and irrigation systems. They help with precision farming, allowing farmers to increase crop yields, monitor animal health, and best utilise available resources.

Healthcare and telemedicine

Medical device connectivity, telemedicine consultations, and remote patient monitoring are all made possible by the use of cellular gateways in healthcare applications. They provide safe and dependable patient data transfer, facilitating prompt medical treatments and improving the effectiveness of healthcare services.

Asset tracking and logistics

In asset monitoring and logistics applications, cellular gateways are used to monitor and track the movement of commodities, vehicles, and equipment. They give route optimisation, supply chain insight, and real-time position updates, increasing operational effectiveness and lowering costs.

Smart home and building automation

Cellular gateways link and operate a variety of devices, including smart thermostats, lighting systems, security systems, and energy management systems, in smart home and building automation systems. They provide for remote access to and management of home or building automation features, boosting security, comfort, and energy efficiency.

High-performance Celluar gateway

The Dusun DSGW-021 cellular gateway utilizes the Quectel EG95-E LTE module, which is based on Qualcomm’s MDM9205 chipset. The MDM9205 chipset is specifically designed for low-power IoT applications and supports LTE Cat 4, allowing for reliable and efficient cellular connectivity in various IoT deployments.

The Quectel EG95-E LTE module offers advanced IoT features like integrated protocols and support for MQTT/CoAP, along with global coverage, LTE Cat 4 connectivity with download speeds up to 150 Mbps, low power consumption for extended battery life, compact size for space-constrained devices, reliable and secure data transmission, and compatibility with a range of IoT applications like asset tracking, smart metering, and industrial automation.

The EG95-E module is a dependable and effective option for IoT installations that need cellular connectivity thanks to its variety of advantages.

DSGW 021

DSGW-021 cellular IoT gateway complies with the latest IEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard and LTE 4G function. It provides continuous high-speed data transmission to multiple devices simultaneously. The built-in 600MHz processor provides powerful data processing capability and improves wireless transmission efficiency.

At the same time, the dual-band synchronous dual-band mid-power design makes wireless connections more flexible and stable, especially for long-distance connections. Generally speaking, DSGW-021 is designed for medium-sized households with increasing demand for high-speed Wi-Fi. It also supports Bluetooth, zigbee, Z-Wave functions and can be connected to BLE devices.

Cellular IoT FAQs

What is cellular IoT vs non cellular IoT?

Non-cellular IoT devices must be set up to a specific network (choose a specific WiFi network or Bluetooth connection) before they may connect to the outside world. On the other hand, cellular devices can be used immediately after a SIM or eSIM card has been inserted and enabled.

How many cellular IoT devices exist?

More than 10 billion IoT devices were in use in 2021. In 2030, it’s predicted that there will be more than 25.4 billion active IoT devices. IoT devices will connect to the internet 152,200 times per minute by 2025.

What distinguishes the Internet of Things from LTE?

Where NB-IoT is no longer sufficient, LTE-M fills the gaps. For instance, LTE-M can transmit a lot more data in a short period of time than NB-IoT because it has a higher data rate of up to 1 Mbit/s. The so-called “handover” radio cell change is another skill LTE-M has mastered.

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