Cat-M1 vs. NB-IoT – Exploring the Differences

Cat M1 vs. NB IoT

Is your business looking to deploy a high number of low-complexity, connected devices onto the Internet of Things (IoT)? If so, understanding the differences between the relevant top-level categories of IoT-connected devices will be helpful. The two are Cat-M1 and NB-IoT.

  • Cat-M1: Runs at a bandwidth in the range of 1.4 MHz, giving it a higher device complexity and therefore cost, than NB-IoT.
  • NB-IoT: Runs at a much narrower bandwidth of 200 kHz, and as a result, it supports ultra-low complexity devices. 

This article is designed to answer all of your questions about the differences between Cat-M1 and NB-IoT.

What does Cat M stand for?

LTE radio technology uses “categories” to differentiate between what each device attached to a network can do. Cat M, otherwise known as Category M, is the second generation of LTE chipsets designed for IoT applications. The M in Cat M stands for “machines .”

In Cat M, speeds are capped at 10 Mbps, which reduces power consumption and costs. With Cat M2 adoption likely to take a few more years, Cat M most likely refers to Category-1 LTE, which is part of the 3GPP LTE standards.

What is Cat M1 frequency?

Cat M1 runs at a broader bandwidth in the range of 1.4 MHz. This increased bandwidth allows Cat M1 to provide greater data rates (up to 1 Mbps), reduced latency and offers more accurate positioning capabilities.

Cat M1 works most effectively when transferring low to medium amounts of data over a long-range. Its low power demand due to small and infrequent data transfers helps minimize costs associated with data transfers and, therefore, improves project efficiency. 

Cat M1 also features a power-saving mode activated when devices are not actively sending or receiving data. This frequency allows Cat M1 cellular technology to benefit various IoT applications greatly.

What are Cat M1 and NB-IoT?

To enter the cellular IoT space with the right equipment for your design, you must understand the difference between Cat M1 and NB IoT. Cat M1 and NB-IoT are each a top-level category of low-power, low bandwidth IoT connected devices.

Cat M1 runs at a bandwidth in the range of 1.4 MHz, giving it a higher device complexity and therefore cost, than NB-IoT. NB-IoT, on the other hand, runs at a much narrower bandwidth of 200 kHz, and as a result, it supports ultra-low complexity devices.

What is the LTE M network?

The LTE M network is simply an abbreviation of the LTE Cat M1 network. 

LTE stands for Long Term Evolution and is a network for IoT devices to connect directly to a 4G network. For an IoT device to connect to the LTE M network, it doesn’t require a gateway or batteries.

What is Cat NB?

Cat NB is a standards-based, low-power wide-area network (LPWA) technology that doesn’t require gateways to aggregate data before sending it off to the main server. 

Also referred to as NB-IoT (NarrowBand Internet of Things), Cat NB technology was developed to facilitate a range of new IoT devices and services onto the network.

When a large number of IoT devices are connected to the network, Cat NB enables a large number to all send data at once, to where there is no standard mobile network coverage. It can guarantee a more reliable data transfer by using a licensed frequency spectrum, free of interference from other devices.

What is Cat M cellular?

Cat M, otherwise known as Category M (for machines), is the second generation of LTE chipsets designed for IoT applications. This technology is for Internet of Things devices to connect directly to a cellular 4G network, without a gateway or the requirement of batteries. 

What is the difference between cat M1 and NB IoT?

Understanding the difference between Cat M1 and NB IoT is critical to entering the cellular IoT space with the right equipment for your design. While each is a top-level category of low power, low bandwidth IoT connected devices, Cat M1 and NB-IoT run at different bandwidths.

Cat M1 runs at a bandwidth in the range of 1.4 MHz, giving it a higher device complexity and therefore cost, than NB-IoT. While NB-IoT runs at a much narrower bandwidth of 200 kHz, and as a result, it supports ultra-low complexity devices.

What is a Cat M1 device?

Cat M1 technology offers the ability for Internet of Things devices to connect directly to a 4G network without a gateway or the requirement of batteries. This offers a great advantage for devices with very low power requirements, such as remotely located sensors and the like. 

As they offer cheap cellular access while using all the advantages of the LTE network, Cat M1 modems make it cheaper to connect each device. This will be especially beneficial when installing a large number of Cat M1 devices at a relatively lower cost per device unit.

What is the difference between LTE-M and NB-IoT?

LTE-M, or Long Term Evolution (4G) category M, is a technology allowing Internet of Things devices to connect directly to a 4G network without a gateway or battery requirements. Keep in mind that LTE-M is simply an abbreviation for Cat-M1.

NB IoT, or Narrowband Internet of Things, on the other hand, is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) radio technology standard, thus enabling a wide range of cellular devices and services to use the technology.

LTE-M is optimized for higher bandwidth and mobile connections, including voice, while NB-IoT offers low bandwidth data connections at a low cost.

What is NB-IoT technology?

NB-IoT technology is a standards-based low power wide area (LPWA) technology developed to enable a wide range of new IoT devices and services. Otherwise known as NarrowBand-Internet of Things, it allows devices to send data where there is no standard mobile network coverage by using a licensed frequency spectrum where there is no interference with other devices.

This technology creates a more reliable data transfer between connected IoT devices and improves the power consumption of user devices, system capacity, and spectrum efficiency.

Is NB-IoT 5G?

After being standardized by the 3GPP in 2016, NB-IoT has been classified as a 5G technology. The Internet of Things offers a faster, higher capacity network in order to be able to efficiently serve the connectivity needs of devices.

5G is important because this spectrum expands the frequencies on which digital cellular technologies can transfer data. While it’s a 5G technology, NB-IoT is supported by all major mobile equipment, chipset, and module manufacturers. This means it can also co-exist with 2G, 3G, and 4G mobile networks.

How does NB-IoT work?

NB-IoT works on a licensed frequency spectrum where there is no interference with other devices. This ensures a more stable transfer of data between devices on the network and significantly improves the power consumption of user devices. NB-IoT networks permit a plethora of devices to send data where standard mobile network coverage is unavailable. 

What is the NB-IoT range?

When compared to other technologies, NB-IoT has relatively low range coverage capabilities of less than 10 km, even in a clear, rural setting.

NB-IoT Range Comparison:

  • Sigfox: 10 km in an urban setting and 40 km in a rural area.
  • LoRaWAN: 5 km in an urban setting and 20 km in a rural area.
  • NB-IoT: 1 km in an urban setting and 10 km in a rural area.

The low range capabilities of NB-IoT mean that its focus is primarily on devices that are installed in places that are generally not covered by cellular networks. These types of networks are usually found indoors, in underground basements, and the like.

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