“The Internet will disappear. There will be so many IP addresses, so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with, that you won’t even sense it. It will be part of your presence all the time. Imagine you walk into a room, and the room is dynamic. And with your permission and all of that, you are interacting with the things going on in the room.” –Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google
The demand for LTE-based Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity
continues to gain momentum alongside the increasing need for connected
equipment. According to Ericsson (2018) there will be more than 3.5 billion cellular IoT devices in market by 2023,
making cellular technology a major communication enabler of IoT.
are a number of competing technologies on the market to connect IoT devices. Many
of the wide-area technologies, such as Sigfox, Weightless,
and LoRa, are not LTE based. That is an important distinction because LTE-based IoT
can be overlaid on existing LTE networks as a software upgrade. It is therefore
much easier—and less costly—for the cellular operators to deploy.
Advantages of LTE-based IoT
IoT (LTE Cat-M and NB-IoT) devices offer a number of advantages over standard
3G and 4G devices: extended battery life, lower cost, and better coverage. Device battery life is extended when the
improved signal environment allows devices to transmit at a substantially lower
output power. The total cost of wireless
is improved when the solution leverages an existing carrirer network; rather
than creating one with your IT department.
This is not to say Cellular IoT is the most economincal for every
deployment, but certain types. To
explain the better coverage via cellular IoT, there are two basic elements to
Link Budget: Better
coverage is delivered primarily because of a substantially better link budget, which is an important
measure for power calculation. Link budget calculates the power received at the
receiver (device) and accounts for gains and losses along the way. It is used
to indicate how weak the signal can be from the tower to the device (and vice
versa) for the system to still operate (communicate).
Larger Coverage Capability: Standards bodies have worked to ensure a better link budget for cellular IoT. It is about 20 dB (~ -164 dB) better than standard 3G and 4G technologies (~ -144 dB), ensuring coverage to an area approximately 7x larger (in an open environment). This 20 dB link budget improvement also results in better in-building signal penetration.
in spite of the improved link budgets and wider coverage areas, LTE-based IoT
devices are still subject to the same in-building cellular signal penetration and
coverage challenges experienced by any mobile phone user inside the building. A
study showed that 74% of workers have “frequent” or
“sometimes” bad cellular coverage.
operators continue to struggle to provide good in-building coverage from outdoor
towers, a business cannot afford to have its mission-critical business
functions inoperable “frequently” or “sometimes” because of a poor cellular
connection. The impact on non mission-critical operations could also reduce the
overall productivity of a company. To take advantage of the benefits of
LTE-based IoT, there should be good and reliable cellular coverage throughout a
In-Building Cellular Coverage Options for IoT
are three ways to deliver coverage indoors to provide the necessary quality of
service for IoT: wired to router, wireless mesh, and dedicated cellular signal amplification.
Wired to Router Network
many applications, this very simple solution will suffice. If the on-premise IoT
solution is simply making use of a wide area, wireless-enabled router or
gateway in which the on-site sensors and nodes are connected via wires, then an
antenna can be run to the exterior of the building. To provide coverage to a
single fixed point, this is a workable option.
However, for the antenna to pick up signal, there
must be some service available to the exterior of the building. There are also
some limitations around equipment placement—the antenna run cannot be too long
due to the attenuation of the signal over the length of the coax cable.
Wireless Mesh Network
IoT networking technologies implement a form of mesh capability, allowing for a
‘string of pearls’ style approach to coverage. In this model, each network node
becomes both a sensor and a gateway for other devices.
applications can leverage this capability quite well. 802.15.4 (Zigbee) is one
such networking technology that makes use of mesh capability. However, there are two main weaknesses with this approach in
extending the IoT network and coverage.
because each node becomes a full-time participant in the communications path,
they need power all the time. This makes a mesh network very difficult to
maintain when relying on battery power. Battery life for a node can decrease
from 10 years to only a few months, depending on where it sits in the network
and how often it’s used. Keep in mind that if a single node goes down in the
network chain, all of the nodes after it are incommunicado. This is
mostly a non-issue where nodes are powered, as with most smart home
applications, for example.
second issue is latency. Each node introduces latency into the network
architecture, which can impact message time out and cause problems with real-time
Dedicated Cellular Signal Amplification
for IoT implementations, the technology used to amplify the signal simply
relays the external coverage internally with delays that are so minimal that it
is invisible to the cellular network. For mission-critical business solutions
that rely on real-time communications, this is important. Introduction of noise
into the system will also negatively impact a network’s performance.
developed proprietary processors used in their line of Cel-Fi signal amplification
systems to address noise and latency concerns. Cel-Fi smart signal boosters and
active DAS hybrid products offer a network-safe guarantee and are approved by
the Federal Communications Commission to boost signal up to 100dB, 1,000 times
greater than allowed with wideband BDA repeaters.
mesh networks, these dedicated cellular signal amplification systems don’t do
any other work so they can operate when needed, waking only when prompted or on
Cel-Fi: Enabling Cellular IoT
the market expands, costs are plummeting, for both equipment and service, and the
ease of installation makes these systems a desirable solution for IoT
applications in a myriad of industries and applications, such as: construction
sites, solar farms, vending machines, oil and gas remote sites, law
enforcement, and public safety.
Download case studies to learn more about how Cel-Fi is enabling IoT connectivity for a wide variety of applications.
About the Author
Joe Schmelzer is Senior Director of
Products at Nextivity. He has developed a variety of products and industrial
devices for chipset vendors, OEMs, and operators, including products for
Qualcomm, Google, Verizon, AT&T, FirstNet, and T-Mobile.
He was also a founding member of CTIA’s Wireless Internet Caucus. For more
information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit www.cel-fi-com
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