NB-IoT vs LoRaWAN: Which Is Best For IoT Deployments?

Written by Soracom Marketing

By Soracom Marketing, Content Team @ Soracom

Published: June 15th, 2023

When it comes to connecting low-power IoT devices, two popular options stand out: NB-IoT and LoRaWAN. While both have their unique characteristics, it’s important to understand the main differences between these two networks.

In this article, we will explore the critical features of NB-IoT and LoRaWAN connectivity and help you decide on what’s the best solution for your IoT implementation.

NB-IoT: Integration with Existing Networks

NB-IoT operates on the same physical network as technologies like 4G and 5G, offering seamless integration with existing mobile networks. Here are some crucial points to consider:

  • Wide operator support: Numerous operators currently support NB-IoT technology, providing a robust network infrastructure.
  • Mobile network dependence: NB-IoT devices require a connection to a mobile network for transmitting data to the Internet.

LoRaWAN: Dedicated Network for IoT

LoRaWAN operates on a separate physical network, offering distinct advantages for IoT deployments. Here’s what you need to know:

  • LoRaWAN gateways: Devices using LoRaWAN require a LoRaWAN gateway to access the Internet.
  • Public and private networks: Public LoRaWAN networks are readily available, and deploying your own network of LoRaWAN gateways is affordable and straightforward.

Key Considerations for Choosing the Right Network

Several factors come into play when evaluating NB-IoT and LoRaWAN for your IoT project. Let’s take a closer look at what matters most when picking what’s best for your IoT SIM card:

1. Latency and Bandwidth

  • NB-IoT: Offers low latency and higher bandwidth due to its integration with existing mobile networks.
  • LoRaWAN: Provides higher latency but is more efficient in terms of bandwidth usage, suitable for applications with intermittent data transmission.

2. Interoperability and Roaming

  • NB-IoT: Benefits from a wide range of supported devices and has better roaming capabilities due to its reliance on existing mobile networks.
  • LoRaWAN: While interoperability is improving, LoRaWAN networks may have limited device compatibility and slower roaming expansion.

3. Battery Consumption

  • NB-IoT: Generally consumes more power due to its integration with mobile networks.
  • LoRaWAN: Designed for low-power applications, LoRaWAN devices have extended battery life, making them suitable for long-term deployments.

4. Cost

  • NB-IoT: Costs associated with NB-IoT connectivity may vary based on operator pricing and coverage availability.
  • LoRaWAN: Setting up your own LoRaWAN network can be cost-effective, and public networks are often available at competitive rates.

NB-IoT vs LoRaWAN: A Comparison

Latency and BandwidthLow latency and higher bandwidthHigher latency but lower bandwidth
Interoperability and RoamingSupports a wide range of supported devicesLimited device compatibility and slower roaming expansion
Battery ConsumptionGenerally consumes more powerDesigned for low-power applications, more suitable for long-term deployments
CostCosts vary by operatorPublic networks are often available at competitive rates
Bandwidth180 kHz125 kHz
Peak Current120 mA32 mA
IoT Security3GPP (128 to 256 bit)AES 128 bit

NB-IoT vs LoRaWAN: Choosing the Right Network for Your IoT Use Case

When it comes to your IoT deployment or application, selecting the most appropriate network that aligns with your specific use case is crucial.

LoRaWAN: Optimised for Outdoor Applications

LoRaWAN stands out when it comes to supporting static outdoor IoT devices. Its exceptional features make it an ideal choice for applications such as:

  • Environmental monitoring for wildlife conservation
  • Smart waste management systems
  • Precision agriculture for optimizing crop yield

With LoRaWAN’s impressive range and extended battery life, deploying IoT devices outdoors becomes hassle-free, minimising maintenance efforts. However, it’s important to note that LoRaWAN may not be the most suitable option for dense indoor environments.

NB-IoT: Thriving in Challenging Urban Settings

In contrast, NB-IoT is the go-to solution for dense urban settings where reliable connectivity is paramount. Its unique capabilities enable it to penetrate obstacles like walls and buildings without compromising service quality. NB-IoT shines in use cases such as:

  • Smart city infrastructure monitoring, including street lighting and traffic management
  • Remote metering and utility monitoring in urban environments
  • Asset tracking and management for logistics and supply chain applications

These scenarios often entail an urban landscape with concrete structures and high wireless user density. Despite these challenges, NB-IoT remains a reliable and successful connectivity solution.

What is IoT?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a rapidly growing technology that connects physical devices to the internet, allowing them to communicate and exchange data. Learn more in our complete guide, What is IoT – An Extensive Overview of Internet of Things (IoT) Applications, Architecture, and History.

Making the Right Choice for Your IoT Implementation

It’s essential to align the choice of network with your specific use case requirements. While NB-IoT and LoRaWAN have been criticised, a pragmatic approach is necessary. Consider the following:

  • Network coverage: Evaluate network coverage availability in your target deployment areas.
  • Use case requirements: Determine the specific latency, bandwidth, interoperability, roaming, and battery consumption needs of your IoT project.
  • Cost considerations: Assess the overall costs associated with connectivity, including upfront investments and ongoing operational expenses.

Next Steps

Choosing between NB-IoT and LoRaWAN requires a careful evaluation of the advantages and limitations of each network.

By considering factors such as latency, bandwidth, interoperability, roaming, battery consumption, and costs, you can make an informed decision for your IoT implementation.

Need help to decide what’s best? Speak to our team of IoT experts today. We’d love to learn more about what you’re working on.

NB-IoT Coverage For Your IoT Deployment

Are you looking for NB-IoT cellular coverage for your IoT deployment? Soracom offers NB-IoT connectivity in a growing number of countries across Europe, along with reliable, cellular connectivity over Cat-M1 and 4G LTE. View our NB-IoT coverage here.

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