NB-IoT and LTE Cat M1

Difference between LTE CAT M1 and NB-IoT Connectivity?

Last Updated: June, 2023

According to a study, the number of IoT devices will exceed 29.4 billion by 2030. These versatile applications of IoT devices require unique and tailored connectivity solutions. Cellular technologies comprise most of the large-scale public domain applications among these communication technologies. This blog compares two of the most popular cellular IoT connectivity solutions: LTE CAT M1 and NB-IoT.

What is LTE Cat M1?

LTE Cat-M1 or Cat-M1 is an LPWAN cellular connectivity technology that works at 1.4 MHz bandwidth. It stands for Long Term Evolution (4G), category M1, and as such, the key advantage for LTE Cat M1 is that it can work with the existing 4G LTE infrastructure available globally.

The key benefits of LTE Cat-M1 include higher data rates, wide bandwidth, and lower system latency. Another advantage of Cat-M1 is that it can transmit voice and offers excellent device positioning.

What is NB-IoT Connectivity?

As the name suggests, Narrow-Band IoT or NB-IoT operates on a 200KHz narrow bandwidth. With a 250 Kbps of data rate, NB-IoT is suitable for applications with a high data rate.

NB-IoT can be the most suitable choice for data sensing applications where lesser data exchange is needed, such as electric metering, car parking sensors, and other such applications. NB-IoT is a less costly option allowing sensors to connect directly with the cloud server. NB-IoT is simpler and suitable for large-scale IoT systems with thousands of devices.

NB-IoT vs. LTE Cat M1

LTE Cat M1 vs. NB-IoT

While LTE Cat M1 and NB-IoT are quite similar, some differences allow them to coexist. Here are some key comparisons between both technologies:

  • Data rate
    LTE Cat M1 uses 1.4 MHz bandwidth in contrast to narrowband competitor NB-IoT using 200 kHz. Likewise, LTE Cat M1 offers a 1Mbps data rate compared to 250 kbps. However, a higher data rate is not a vital need for LPWAN technologies.
  • Maturity & reliance
    NB-IoT has grown significantly over the last few years. However, LTE Cat M1 offers better coverage and maturity in most countries.
  • Network handover
    Mobility solutions such as fleet tracking and management require devices to pass through different towers. While LTE can maintain a continuous connection during the handover, NB-IoT can not and needs to reconnect. 
  • Battery life
    Battery life is another minor difference, as LPWAN IoT devices can go into a deep sleep when inactive. However, NB-IoT offers a better battery life compared to LTE Cat M1.

NB-IoT and LTE Cat M1 for industrial use

LTE Cat M1 was the earlier cellular LPWAN technology; however, NB-IoT has multiplied recently. The simplistic application, lesser cost, and lower power make NB-IoT a good fit for applications where limited sensor data needs to be sent. Contact us if you would like to know more about LTE Cat M1 connectivity and add it to your products.