What is are the difference between NB-IoT and LPWA or other LPWA technologies?

  • NB-IoT is an LPWA (Low Power Wide Area) radio technology, being low power (multiple years of battery-powered operation) and wide area (wide signal range and deep indoor penetration). Other characteristics are low data rates and low cost radio modules. LPWA includes NB-IoT, LTE-M, EC-GSM, UNB/Sigfox, LoRa and RPMA/Ingenu.

    Our objective as Deutsche Telekom is to offer our customers in all industries M2M/IoT solutions that work worldwide, built on established international standards. They benefit from the typical characteristics of standardized technologies like NB-IOT: reliability, stability, scalability, economies of scale, security and international compatibility. Standards and the use of licensed spectrum will contribute substantially to the success of NB-IoT.

    Main advantages of NB-IoT compared to other LPWA technologies such as LoRa and Sigfox
    Most importantly, they differ in standardization and the use of spectrum: NB-IoT is a 3GPP industry standard using existing assets of network operators like sites, base stations, antennas, backhaul and licensed spectrum. Licensed bands can handle a massive number of devices, stable and securely at high transmission capacities and with high reliability.
    Sigfox and LoRa are proprietary technologies on unlicensed bands and therefore need dedicated network components. With an increasing number of connected devices, data transmission on unlicensed bands is likely to deteriorate (e.g. by interference) while benefits of using a standardized technology in licensed bands will become even more important.

    Main advantages of NB-IoT compared to LoRa and Sigfox regarding scalability
    Scalability is one of the notable features of cellular networks, in which mobile network operators (MNOs) can manage their own capacities alongside existing LTE networks. In contrast, proprietary technologies like e.g. LoRa and Sigfox need dedicated gateways and networks, operated by different companies across countries and urban regions.
    Arguably, MNOs are better suited to operate reliable and secure networks and platforms for IoT applications fulfilling the need for data security and high capacities. As an industry standard currently being rolled out all over the world including the US and the Chinese market, where all three mobile operators are rapidly expanding their networks, NB-IoT benefits from decreasing module costs thanks to increasing production scale.

    Main advantages of NB-IoT compared to LoRa and Sigfox regarding security
    Overall, NarrowBand IoT provides a higher security than proprietary technologies, as its protection measures cover all aspects from the UICC in the device to the application servers. Being a global industry standard, NB-IoT (just like LTE) benefits from a large international ecosystem of vendors and other experts to constantly review and enhance security functions and algorithms as new threats arise. As part of its corporate identity, Deutsche Telekom seeks to protect its customers and its assets to the greatest extent possible.

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