LPWAN technologies: Nb-Iot, loRaWAN, Sigfox

Picture of Jaime Bautista Salinero
Jaime Bautista Salinero

For businesses looking to implement IoT networks, there have been many technologies available. It can be difficult to know which one to choose, as technology is constantly changing and evolving.

In this blog post, it will be discussed three of the most popular IoT network technologies available today: NBIOT (Narrowband Internet of Things), LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network), and Sigfox.

Not only it will be provided the definition, but also the advantages and disadvantages of each one. Towards the end, you will see as well which features they offer. By the end of the article, it will be also available Thinger´s opinion about this topic.

Some of the advantages that will be explained are related to scalability, coverage, and consumption.

The needs of the company are crucial in the moment of choosing an IoT protocol

NB-IOT

NB-IOT (Narrowband Internet of Things) is a cellular-based technology that uses low-frequency radio waves for communication with low-power devices.

It operates on 4G/LTE cellular networks and provides a wide coverage range with low latency and high reliability.

NBIOT is suitable for applications that require data transfer over long distances such as smart metering or asset tracking in urban environments.

The technology supports up to 10,000 devices per base station which makes it ideal for large-scale deployments.

Advantages of NBIOT

High scalability: The combination of low device networking cost and reduced complexity makes NB-IoT perfect for high scalability.

Cost-effectiveness: NB-IoT operates with small data amounts, leading to low energy usage, with devices remaining in a power-saving mode most of the time.

Strong coverage: The high building penetration of NB-IoT makes it ideal for transmission inside buildings, where access to existing internal network infrastructure may be limited.

disadvantages of NBIOT

Data: NB-IoT offers a lower data rate of approximately 250Kbps for downloads and 20Kbps for uploads compared to LTE Cat-M1, making it not suitable for big projects.

Speech transmission: Voice Over LTE (VoLTE) is not supported by NB-IoT for speech transmission, making voice transmission impossible.

Roaming: At this moment, NB-IoT does not support roaming, unlike LTE-M and Sigfox. However, it is expected to be supported soon.

LoRaWAN

LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) is an LPWA (Low Power Wide Area) protocol that uses unlicensed radio frequencies to transmit data from devices to gateways located at various places in a city or region.

This technology has the ability to connect millions of sensors at long distances with low power consumption making it suitable for many applications including smart cities, agriculture monitoring, smart lighting, etc.

LoRaWAN also supports secure encryption protocols which makes it highly reliable and secure for use in sensitive applications such as healthcare or security systems.

Advantages of LoRaWAN:

Security: LoRaWAN employs 128-bit cryptographic keys and algorithms to ensure two layers of security, providing end-to-end security. 

Networks: LoRaWAN offers flexible deployment options, including public and private networks. In a public network, a telecom operator deploys gateways and backhauls, and customers pay the operator to connect their end devices. Private LoRaWAN networks can be established by anyone with their own gateways, backhaul, and end devices within the range of those gateways.

Underground coverage: Due to its Sub-Gigahertz radio modulation, LoRaWAN provides extensive indoor coverage, connecting end devices located in basements and undergrounds such as utility meters and parking sensors. It also provides long-range communication of up to 5 kilometers in urban areas and up to 15 kilometers or more in rural areas.

Battery life: Moreover, LoRaWAN allows for low-power, long-range data transmission, which results in extended battery life for LoRaWAN devices of up to 10 years or more.

Disadvantages of LoRaWAN:

Low rate of transmission: LoRa has the advantage of long transmission distance. But this comes at the cost of a low transmission rate. In wireless communication, the transmission rate decreases as the transmission distance increases. Conversely, the transmission rate increases when the transmission distance is shorter.

Spectrum interference possibility: Due to the increasing deployment of LoRa networks and equipment, spectrum interference can occur between them.

Sigfox

Sigfox is another LPWA protocol. This uses unlicensed ISM bands for communication between devices and gateways located in different regions or cities.

It is designed to support long-range communications over long distances with low power consumption. Making it ideal for applications such as asset tracking or remote monitoring in rural areas.

Unlike other technologies, Sigfox does not require additional hardware infrastructure such as antennas or repeaters.

This makes it an attractive choice for businesses looking to deploy large-scale IoT networks quickly and cost-effectively.

Advantages of Sigfox:

✅ It has low power consumption: Ideal for simple devices that transmit data infrequently, as it can send small amounts of data at a slow pace.

✅ It provides wide coverage in the areas where it is available.

✅ It is simple to set up and does not require cables or complicated installation procedures.

Sigfox can significantly reduce energy consumption and expenses related to connected devices.

This platform is ideal for low-power applications that transmit small amounts of data at irregular intervals across long distances.

Disadvantages of Sigfox:

❌ It is not deployed everywhere, so it won’t work for a large number of use cases currently.

❌ Communication is better headed up from the endpoint to the base station. It has bidirectional functionality, but its capacity from the base station back to the endpoint is constrained, and you’ll have less link budget going down than going up.

Mobility is difficult with Sigfox devices.

Which one is better?

The choice between NBIOT, LoRaWAN, and Sigfox depends on the needs of your business and the applications you want to deploy on your network.

Each technology has its own strengths and weaknesses so it’s important to weigh all options before deciding which one will best suit your needs.

IoT network protocols comparation

If you need a reliable network that offers a wide coverage range but requires additional hardware infrastructure then NBIOT may be the right choice for you.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for an easy-to-deploy solution with minimal hardware costs then Sigfox may be a better option.

Ultimately the decision should be based on your specific requirements so make sure you do your research before investing in any particular system.

Thinger.io can work with each of these technologies, providing actionable insights that can help businesses make informed decisions.

The platform is designed to be affordable and accessible, even for students.

For more information, you can contact an IoT expert from our team by clicking on the button below.

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