Many smartphone users are already familiar with LTE—or Long Term Evolution, typically referred to as a Fourth Generation (4G) mobile connectivity technology. Now, Internet of Things and machine-to-machine communications devices are getting onboard with LTE. In much of the world, this wireless standard has superseded the older, slower standards of 2G and 3G for mobile phones, with over 75% penetration across the US, Europe, and especially in Asia. LTE was designed to use a new protocol called Orthogonal Frequency Domain Multiple Access (OFDMA), and it has many advantages for IoT/M2M that are just now becoming apparent.
LTE Connectivity Is More Efficient for IoT
A big thing that sets LTE apart is that it’s flexible in terms of the channel widths that can be used, and thus the available spectrum bands can be partitioned into smaller blocks more easily. LTE also allows existing spectrum to be partitioned into multiple blocks, which means an operator can deploy 4G without having to entirely remove older technologies.
However, because there are more than 30 bands available for LTE use, countries have not auctioned or made available the full set of possible bands. In fact, some bands may be impossible to use in certain countries because they are dedicated to other uses.
Thus, IoT/M2M devices using LTE everywhere will have to support a number of different bands, and this can add costs for additional filters and power-amplifiers inside the devices to support each band. But, as with most types of hardware, the cost of the LTE devices are rapidly coming down as additional LTE units are being deployed. This year, more LTE-only devices have being released than ever before.
Do You Want LTE-Only or Cellular Fall-Back?
Because LTE is a newer technology and is not fully functional everywhere, IoT/M2M devices have to support multiple generations of technologies to provide complete coverage. The cellular radios essentially “fall back” from LTE to older generations when the device can’t connect to LTE in a particular geographical location. The control of when to fall back (including which technology to fall back to) is controlled automatically in the device's SIM card.
Including a fallback mechanism will increase the complexity and, thus, the cost of the chipsets within IoT/M2M modules. But as LTE becomes more common and is available everywhere that cellular services are offered, it makes sense to use LTE-only radios. As the costs for LTE-only modules continue to drop, this option will become more and more popular as you migrate from 2G to 3G services to LTE.
Once you have the right device, whether it’s LTE-only or has cellular fall-back, you need LTE SIMs and connectivity. That’s where Neo comes in. Create your account, buy LTE SIMs, and you’ll be ready to go.