Have a Question?

What are the Differences Between LTE-M and NB-IoT Cellular Protocols?

Mar 06, 2017 | Length: 2:42

Chief Innovator Rob Faludi, explains two new protocols for cellular communication and how these low bandwidth protocols are different. Watch this video to determine if LTE-M or NB-IoT is ideal for your IoT application.

New cellular protocols are set to roll out in 2017 to provide low power and low cost cellular connectivity for industrial Internet of Things (IoT) applications.  Digi Chief Innovator Rob Faludi explains LTE-M and NB-IoT low bandwidth protocols, provides industrial IoT application examples, and breaks down the differences of the new cellular protocols. 

 Get started today with a Digi XBee Cellular Development Kit.


I'm Rob Faludi, Chief Innovator for Digi International.

Today I'm going to give you some information on the differences between two new protocols for cellular communication, LTE-M and NB-IoT.

These two new low-bandwidth protocols are set to roll out in 2017. Both are optimized for the needs of Internet of Things applications, such as industrial controls, residential security, smart metering, municipal infrastructure, or precision agriculture.

Here's a typical example. Fuel tank monitoring for a remotely located emergency generator. There's not a lot of data to send, just the fuel levels. But, there's also no Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or landlines nearby so we have to go cellular. Power may be provided by a small battery, and costs need to be kept as low as possible for the monitoring to make sense.

This is where LTE-M or NB-IoT can help. Neither uses much bandwidth, so they can run on less powerful hardware with lower-cost data plans while still improving range and extending battery life. How are the two protocols different from each other? In a nutshell, NB-IoT offers low bandwidth data connections at low cost and is currently Europe-focused, while LTE-M is optimized for higher bandwidth and mobile connections, including voice. It will start rolling out in North America. Let's take a look at the details.

LTE-M has higher throughput with lower latency and battery use is optimized accordingly. It works on-the-go, so it's appropriate for applications in transportation and supply-chain tracking. It can also carry voice for applications such as residential security systems. NB-IoT is designed for lower data rates, where small delays are fine.

For example, a smart meter sending infrequent updates from a fixed location. Its battery use is optimized for that type of situation.

Both operate using a single antenna, simplifying your designs. Since NB-IoT will debut first in European markets, while LTE-M will roll out starting here in North America, system location could be your deciding factor between these two related protocols. While LTE-M and NB-IoT networks are still being built, you can get started today with Digi XBee Cellular on LTE Cat 1, a higher bandwidth protocol. Then, seamlessly switch over to an XBee cellular LTE-M or NB-IoT device as those networks roll out.

Want to learn more? The experts at Digi can help with all the details, including choosing the solution that's best for you.

Thanks for watching.