NB-IoT vs LTE-M: A Comparability

Representation: © IoT For All

We continuously get requested about LTE-M and NB-IoT availability. They’re each nice connectivity choices for IoT that provide decrease chronic intake, deep penetration, smaller shape elements, and decrease prices. However there’s numerous confusion on the market concerning the strengths of each and every generation.

The verdict on which generation same old to make use of isn’t simple. After I appeared for a transparent resolution, I briefly turned into misplaced in a maze of acronyms. Now I’ve a transparent image of the way the 2 applied sciences evaluate, and I am hoping it is helping you grip your mobile connectivity generation selection!


For those who ask the web, you’ll normally listen that NB-IoT helps units in deeper puts than LTE-M. However is that this truly the case? Just lately, researchers and business friends have proven this presumption isn’t simple.

Most Coupling Loss (MCL)

3GPP makes use of MCL to judge protection. In idea, it may be outlined as the utmost loss within the performed chronic degree machine can tolerate and nonetheless be operational (outlined by way of a minimal applicable gained chronic degree). A better MCL way a extra tough hyperlink between transmitter and receiver.

MCL for NB-IoT and LTE-M

3GPP’s site refers back to the e-book Mobile Web of Issues (2d Version) From Huge Deployments to Vital 5G Packages as a supply for more info on Nb-IoT and LTE-M.

In keeping with the e-book, the MCLs on 4G telecom generation are:

  • LTE-M: 160.7 dB
  • NB-IoT: 164 dB

On 5G telecom generation, the MCLs for each NB-IoT and LTE-M (with the requirement of supporting a connection density of one,000,000 units according to km2) will have to be 164 dB.

So, in keeping with the ones MCLs, NB-IoT and LTE-M have the similar penetration intensity on 5G. 

On 4G, LTE-M falls in the back of the NB-IoT by way of three.three dB (160.7 dB), that means that NB-IoT has a greater penetration intensity than LTE-M on 4G telecom networks.

LTE-M Analysis: What Does It Display?

Then again, distinguished firms within the telecom business have performed simulations in response to the assumptions 3GPP has made. They researched the protection for LTE-M and its suitability for IoT packages that want deep protection. LTE-M has an excessively an identical penetration skill to different LPWA applied sciences.

In keeping with Sierra Wi-fi Leader Engineer Gus Vos, “LTE-M helps an excessively an identical if now not higher protection enhancement in comparison to different LPWA applied sciences.” Why? It seems the assumptions underlying 3GPP’s MCL calculations numerous between applied sciences and thus was once now not a good comparability. 

Penetration Conclusion

Each NB-IoT and LTE-M are neatly fitted to deep penetration. Analysis displays that LTE-M can reach the similar penetration intensity as NB-IoT (however at the price of further chronic intake? You’ll be able to learn extra in this underneath).

Then again, it’s necessary to needless to say the parameters focused on assessments and simulations across the penetration functions may range so much from instrument to instrument, cellular tower to cellular tower, and so forth.

As a last notice, an obstacle that NB-IoT has right here in comparison to LTE-M is that NB-IoT isn’t to be had to wholesale. These days, your instrument will handiest have get admission to to a subset of base stations in a rustic when the usage of NB-IoT. LTE-M already has wholesale agreements to be had, that means these days, it’s imaginable to connect to a couple of LTE-M networks from one instrument, thus expanding the danger of discovering a powerful sufficient connection.

World Deployment and Roaming

NB-IoT may also be deployed on each 2G (GSM) and 4G (LTE) networks, whilst LTE-M is simply for 4G. Then again, LTE-M is already suitable with the present LTE community, whilst NB-IoT makes use of DSSS modulation, which calls for particular . Each are deliberate to be to be had on 5G. Those elements, plus some others, affect availability world wide.

World Availability

Thankfully, GSMA has a to hand useful resource known as the Cell IoT Deployment Map. In it, you’ll see the worldwide deployment of NB-IoT and LTE-M applied sciences.

Operators in most cases deployed LTE-M first in international locations that had LTE protection already (e.g., america). It’s reasonably more uncomplicated to improve an present LTE tower to toughen LTE-M than so as to add NB-IoT toughen.

Then again, if LTE isn’t supported already, it’s inexpensive to position up new NB-IoT infrastructure.

Some other issue to believe is that businesses like Huawei are beautiful invested in NB-IoT highbrow belongings (IP) and toughen its rollout.

Roaming Agreements

Deployment is one thing it is important to believe in case you are sending a tool someplace. And if that instrument isn’t staying in the similar position perpetually otherwise you’re now not certain the place on the earth it’s going to deploy, you’ll additionally wish to believe the nuances of roaming with LTE-M and NB-IoT.

LTE-M has the good thing about having mobile roaming agreements already in position, whilst NB-IoT is a long way in the back of. Due to this fact roaming for NB-IoT is relatively restricted.

World Deployment and Roaming Choices

The selections right here rely on the place your instrument might be positioned and whether or not or now not it’s going to want roaming. In case your instrument would possibly wish to roam, LTE-M is your herbal selection. 

In case your instrument might be static in, e.g., China, then NB-IoT is recently the selection that is smart.

Nonetheless, NB-IoT and LTE-M are nonetheless of their early days, and it’s recently useful to have 2G or 4G fallback choices, as an example.

Energy Intake

Conventional mobile requirements are designed to serve as with voice and SMS, and so are all the time listening for incoming calls. However maximum IoT Packages don’t require that units pay attention, which means that conventional requirements (2G, 3G, 4G) use extra chronic than NB-IoT and LTE-M.

Lengthy battery lifetimes are crucial in lots of trendy IoT packages. Bring to mind Packages like sensible waste control, asset control, and environmental sensors right here.

NB-IoT and LTE-M constitute an important growth in chronic intake in comparison to different mobile requirements. Then again, evaluating the 2 IoT connectivity answers is difficult because of the numerous elements influencing chronic intake and battery lifetime.

Energy Saving Options

Each applied sciences toughen PSM (chronic saving mode) and eDRX (Prolonged Discontinuous Reception), which lengthen battery existence. The video underneath has a just right review of those two options (NB eMTC is a subset of LTE-M).

Then again, in apply, it’s a very powerful that you simply totally check those options to your instrument first. Whilst they’re nice in idea, the usage of them might not be simple. We mentioned this in a up to date webinar with LightBug CEO and Founder Chris Visitor. LightBug skilled difficulties in getting those power-saving options to paintings reliably and as a substitute created their very own “sleep” common sense for his or her monitoring units.

Energy Utilization Right through Transmission

Components comparable to coupling loss (protection stipulations) will considerably have an effect on the uplink and downlink speeds. It’s worthwhile to say that during just right stipulations, LTE-M will reap the rewards of quicker knowledge speeds. Then again, in dangerous stipulations, NB-IoT could have quicker knowledge speeds. 

Energy intake in NB-IoT and LTE-M is closely dependant to your explicit Packages and the units you employ. A instantly comparability between the 2 applied sciences is sophisticated as many variables dictate chronic intake (transmission frequency, transmission dimension, coupling loss).


When transferring, your instrument will wish to transfer between base stations (aka cellular towers) regularly. The picture underneath is from a learn about by way of Fabien Sanglard and skillfully displays how his telephone jumped between base stations whilst transferring.


As you’ll see, there are numerous handovers between base stations in a brief adventure. This handover procedure is ready your instrument’s connection being seamlessly transferred from one base station to any other. 

NB-IoT isn’t in a position to this type of seamless handover. As a tool strikes out of the cellular tower vary, it’s going to build up the ability (conductive Tx chronic) to stick hooked up. As soon as it turns into disconnected, it will have to sign in with the community once more, inflicting a connectivity drop and extending chronic intake.

It’s easy right here, use LTE-M for cellular units.

Freedom to Go away

Freedom to go away (aka freedom to perform) isn’t continuously mentioned in our business because it’s now not recurrently to be had. However it’s one thing that runs to the core of Onomondo (and is imaginable on account of our community core), so it could be a disgrace to not glance into the probabilities right here for the 2 applied sciences as neatly.

In brief, freedom to go away is concerning the skill to switch a SIM to a brand new operator over the air (or load a brand new operator profile onto the SIM). For those who don’t have the liberty to go away and haven’t already were given toughen in your desired operator on deployed SIMs, you’ll wish to bodily consult with your whole units to switch SIM playing cards to modify operator. Visiting units to modify SIMs is normally both very dear or nearly unimaginable. 

Maximum will inform you this isn’t an issue with eUICC. However there may be nonetheless a subject matter with seller lock-in for eUICC because of eUICC platforms, that means you don’t have general freedom to perform along with your SIMs.

Onomondo makes it imaginable to modify operators on common UICC SIMs by means of over-the-air (OTA) updates. We will be able to do that because of our community setup and our whole keep watch over over our SIMs’ IMSI, Ki, and OPC keys, a very important a part of switching operators.

Identification Switching

Maximum operators don’t toughen SMS on NB-IoT. This implies eUICC is not going to paintings in lots of networks, and Onomondo’s OTA operator updates also are unimaginable. In keeping with the GSMA NB-IoT deployment information from June 2019, “Only a few operators deploying NB-IoT will toughen SMS. Thus no clean deployment advice may also be supplied at the moment.”

LTE-M helps OTA updates. Moreover, the upper bandwidths of LTE-M make the transmission of SIM profiles more uncomplicated (or any instrument replace, for that subject). If you’re taking into account eUICC, then it’s easiest to move for LTE-M. eUICC more than likely received’t paintings for your area(s) of passion on NB-IoT. 

Moreover, NB-IoT is extra of an operator lock-in possibility as switching operators are normally now not imaginable OTA. 

Sturdy Generation Requirements

In accordance with the above issues, you’ll see that LTE-M and NB-IoT are each robust generation requirements for IoT packages.

  • Protection/Penetration: LTE-M is more than likely as just right as NB-IoT.
  • World deployment and roaming: Roaming is best with LTE-M. Then again, it’s necessary to test availability for your area(s) of passion.
  • Energy intake: This can be a onerous one to name. Apparently that LTE-M is best in just right to reasonable protection stipulations, and NB-IoT is best in deficient protection stipulations.
  • Mobility: LTE-M is acceptable for static and cellular units, whilst NB-IoT is handiest appropriate for static.
  • Freedom to go away: LTE-M helps freedom to go away and eUICC, NB-IoT normally doesn’t.

My opinion is that LTE-M is general the extra tough selection for IoT answers. For those who upload that OTA firmware updates are more uncomplicated with LTE-M and that it’s voice-ready, it’s the extra versatile resolution of the 2 and represents a cast, future-proofed connectivity selection.

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