Industry Article

Why There’s Room for a Variety of Solutions in IoT Technology

March 02, 2021 by Remi Lorrain, Semtech

This article looks at the different connectivity options for deploying IoT networks, exploring the pros and cons of each.

As the hype around 5G technology continues to grow, the possibility of faster, more streamlined connectivity is driving conversations globally. But while 5G adoption has started, it continues to roll out slowly. To date, some have experienced the benefits 5G technology can bring, but most are patiently awaiting its arrival – and that’s assuming the technology fits the needs of their use case. 5G technology shows a breadth of new possibilities, however since it’s not a one size fits all technology, connectivity solutions from a variety of sources are still necessary.

 

iot connectivity network

Figure 1. While 5G technology offers news possibilities, it's not always the best choice for IoT networking.

 

While 5G deployments continue to increase in quantity and more applications are discovered, this simultaneously fuels a rise in the deployment of complementary technologies. 5G was designed to bring faster speeds, stronger connectivity, and lower latency, and the connectivity market has been so focused on the impact that will bring. But when taking a look at the logistics and steps needed to actually deploy 5G, some use cases don’t need that level of connectivity and in many cases, simply do not have the hardware to support constant connectivity. 

 

IoT Network Connectivity Options

It’s important that options are presented when looking for the right solution, as each use case has different connectivity requirements. Bluetooth, cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity were used by early IoT adopters, specifically in use cases requiring ultra-high reliability, very low latency and high availability. There are pros and cons to every solution that will play essential roles in determining the best IoT network to deploy:

  • 5G: While 5G offers higher capacity and data rates, low latency, and a software-designed core network, it also comes with a short-range in the mmWave spectrum, can be quite costly to deploy and comes with a complex ecosystem. 
  • Wi-Fi: The benefits to leveraging Wi-Fi technology include a simplified cost-efficient deployment, it can be seen as a strong alternative to 5G and it offers open roaming. Alternatively, Wi-Fi offers a limited coverage range, limited security, and required high energy.
  • Bluetooth: The pros to deploying Bluetooth include its low cost, easy deployment, and that there isn’t hardware required to leverage the technology. However, it comes with short connection times, short-range, and low bandwidth. 
  • LoRa: LoRa works well in use cases that require low battery consumption and long-range capabilities, it can be deployed in a cost-effective way, and offers an open business model for public and private deployments. On the other hand, the technology isn’t ideal when the use case requires high data rates, or for applications requiring lower latency. 

To see these compared in a more visual way, check out Semtech's Ultimate Network Comparison infographic.

 

LPWANs for Long Range and Low Power

For use cases that require long-range, low power connectivity, low power wide area networks (LPWANs) are optimal – the technology can be deployed on land, at sea, and in space, enabling sensors to wirelessly transmit information across a wide area, without expending a lot of power. IoT solutions with long-range, low power capabilities offer connectivity for traditional IoT applications and provide incredible bandwidth for critical infrastructure across uses cases globally.

For example, as we’ve been spending more time at home these days, connectivity may in fact be more critical now than ever before. Long-range, low-power technology can address indoor connectivity challenges faced by traditional platforms like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Solutions with long-range capabilities make it easy to streamline at-home operations by offering the ability to connect devices inside and outside the home – like outdoor lighting, garages, pet geo-fencing, and more -- to the same platform. Businesses and individuals can benefit from an IoT solution that’s cost-effective, easy to implement, and one that’s flexible and can be deployed for both indoor and outdoor use cases. 

 

Different Technology Requires Different Connectivity

As technology continues to evolve, and new solutions are developed to suit specific needs, it’s important that these solutions can help streamline operations and improve the processes used to tackle day-to-day tasks. Though reliable connection is critical, it’s important that businesses and individuals choose the right solution that with not only scale as technology develops, but that will maintain a reliable connection between devices and server. 

In the broad wireless market landscape, there is room for 5G, LPWAN, Bluetooth, and other technologies to coexist. Adaptability and choice continue to be the name of the game, and while the market continues to watch 5G evolve, alternative solutions are equally as important.  

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