Wireless standards for IoT can be a bit confusing, since it’s easy to get mired in technical data about frequency bands and designations. So, we’ll try to break this down in a more practical way, based on how you might actually use the wireless standards.
Wireless standards for IoT are grouped into three broad categories:
- Low power wide area network (LPWAN) standards.
- Medium and short range IoT wireless network standards.
- Cellular networks for IoT.
Yes, these standards have different frequency bands, antenna types, and country-specific regulations. But the differences in capabilities are more important. Here’s a rundown of what each group of standards can do.
Low power wide area network (LPWAN) standards
LPWAN standards are designed for connecting IoT devices that send relatively low volumes of data. These devices are usually things like sensors.
An LPWAN uses a low power signal to achieve longer transmission ranges with fairly low power requirements. So an LPWAN standard is ideal for connecting battery powered devices that require only a low bitrate connection.
Many LPWAN standards for IoT are purpose built for connecting IoT networks. An LPWAN will usually have a hub device on the network that supplies an internet connection, if it’s necessary, and the other devices will connect to the internet through the central hub device.
These are some common LPWAN standards for IoT:
- LTE-M (offered by Telnyx)
- Long-Range (LoRa)
Medium and short range IoT wireless network standards
Medium and short range IoT wireless networks are capable of higher bitrates than LPWANs. However, medium and short range networks tend to be less power efficient. As such, these networks are best for applications like home or industrial automation. Devices like HVAC thermostats, lighting controllers, and security systems can use medium and short range networks to transmit environmental data and control other devices.
However, most medium and short range wireless network standards are best suited for devices that have dedicated power supplies, since the more powerful network puts a lot of strain on batteries.
Some of these short and medium range IoT network standards can also connect to the internet without the aid of a supporting network. This is convenient, but presents some additional cybersecurity challenges.
These are the most common short and medium range IoT network standards:
- Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
Cellular networks (4G, LTE, 5G) are a bit of a hybrid between the LPWAN and short/medium range standards (not in design, but in application).
Many people don’t realize this, but you can build private 4G and LTE networks that connect local devices. And, as you probably already know, you can also use cellular networks to connect to the internet.
Also, cellular networks are capable of higher data rates than LPWAN standards. But you can run cellular networks efficiently enough for battery powered devices. However, the wrinkle in using cellular IoT networks is that you must work with a cellular data provider. If you don’t have a wireless carrier, you won’t be able to connect your cellular devices to the internet. At best, IoT devices will be able to connect to each other on your local 4G or LTE network.
And, as you may have guessed, the cellular data comes with some additional cost. So, size up your cellular data provider and find out what they charge for cellular data and how much the SIM cards and other required equipment cost.
Also assess your carrier’s network capabilities:
- Do they operate their own network, or do they outsource their connections to third parties?
- Can they encrypt your data from end to end? If they don’t operate their own network, it’s unlikely that they can offer end-to-end encryption.
- Does the carrier rely on the public internet for sending data? The public internet is bad for security, reliability, and data transmission speeds. So it’s best if your carrier can keep your data off the public internet.
- How good is the carrier’s API support? If you need an API, strong API support will make your development process far more efficient and make your developers happy.
In short, LPWANs and short/medium range wireless network standards have their place. But cellular networks are great for almost all IoT use case, as long as you work with a good carrier.
If you choose the right carrier, using cellular networks for IoT can be reliable, secure, and very easy to scale to meet your needs.
Telnyx is a cellular carrier that provides LTE connectivity for IoT networks. The Telnyx network is built on a private, fiber optic backbone.
Telnyx owns and operates the entire network to ensure 99.99% uptime, end-to-end encryption, and the fewest possible hops on the public internet. Therefore, your IoT network is the most reliable and secure when you connect with Telnyx.
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