ARTICLES — September 03, 2019

Helping You Choose The Right Connectivity For Your Business: 3G, LTE, or NB-IoT

By 2022 the number of IoT devices is predicted to grow into nearly 7 billion devices. 5 billion of them would be in the form of sensors and meters such as asset tracking sensors, smart parking sensors, and smart agriculture sensors. With so many devices competing for connection, choosing the right connectivity for your business becomes increasingly important. Especially when your business growth in years to come depends on it.

In order to help you choose, we’ve written a comprehensive but straightforward comparison between 3G, LTE and the new LPWAN technology; NB-IoT. But before we dive into the techy details of the connectivity solutions, let’s first learn what they actually are.

3G and LTE

If you’ve owned a mobile phone or a tablet, you’ve probably heard of 3G or 4G. The “G” stands for the generation of mobile technology. The third-generation or 3G is the older generation of mobile data technology, while the 4G and the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technologies are newer. What about 5G, you ask? That’s the newest of the network technology and is slowly but surely being implemented internationally.

All major carriers in Indonesia supply nationwide coverage in 3G whether in the form of Global System for Mobiles (GSM) and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA). The two are different competing technologies that accomplish the same thing. However, in Indonesia GSM played a major role in the market while CDMA is slowly fading into the background.

LTE is a standard for 4G wireless broadband technology that works better and faster than its older sister. It offers increased network capacity, it can transfer more data in less time, and it has shorter delays at less than a second. LTE also has scalable bandwidth capacity and is still compatible with existing 3G technologies. 

In short, these mobile broadband technologies are widely used for its speed, robust data transfer capacity, and security. However, for these same reasons, LTE and 3G connectivity is more expensive to use and consumes more energy. It champions speed and data over cost.

NB-IoT

NB-IoT is a standardized LPWAN technology invented specifically for IoT devices and services. It uses a frequency that can reach a much wider area at the frequency of 900 MHz.

NB-IoT has the ability to connect to billions of devices while running on optimized power consumption and maintaining strong wide-area coverage. Unlike 3G and 4G, NB-IoT has deep coverage which means it can maintain better connectivity underground, through walls, in buildings and basements.

An NB-IoT device is so powerful it can run up to ten years without charging. This is thanks to its low complexity design that’s cost-effective to produce at about $5 USD for modules. NB-IoT devices can also be supported by all major mobile equipment, chipset and module manufacturers, making it able to benefit from security and privacy features of mobile networks such as identity confidentiality, entity authentication, data integrity, and mobile equipment identification. 

In short, NB-IoT is energy-saving, low costing, and provides deep coverage. It works best for devices with small data packages like sensors and meters. The technology champions cost and coverage over speed.

So, what does that mean for my business?

Let’s circle back to our first paragraph. By 2022, most of the IoT devices in the market will be made up of sensors used in various industries. If your business relies on sensors to monitor sites, equipment, shipments, inventories, or other things, then you need to read the next part.

Sensors, in general, work by transferring small amounts of data regularly to the main server. Some require near-real-time connectivity, others can tolerate seconds of delay or is designed to send data in longer time intervals. Additionally, there may be hundreds even thousands of sensors in the near vicinity doing different jobs. This means the connectivity needs to be able to handle high end-point density. And for businesses to maintain effective operation, the sensors have to be affordable and reliable at all times with no regular maintenance required such as battery change. 

For this reason, LTE/3G is definitely out of the equation. When you’re working with sensors, you don’t need big data packets or real-time capabilities. You will profit more from NB-IoT that champions cost, coverage, and reliability. If you want to know the many NB-IoT use cases, here’s a list for you to peruse.

However, if your business relies on regular voice or video communication which requires large data packets and real-time apps, then LTE or 3G is the connectivity solution for you. 

The difference between the two will boil down to speed, power management, and the number of connection.

Conclusion

In conclusion, before deciding which connectivity solution to use, ask yourself these questions:

●    What do my employees need to conduct their work effectively?

●    What is more important to the business; data transfer speed or long-term power management?

●    How many devices do you need to connect within an area? 

By considering what your needs are for before you choose a solution, you can make a decision that will set your business for success. Find out more about the benefits and features of NB-IoT on Telkomsel NB-IoT. If you have more questions, contact our experts at Telkomsel IoT.

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