A lot has changed since the PTT (now KPN) first set up the 2G GSM network in 1994. The 10kb/s connection of those days is by no means sufficient to meet our contemporary internet needs.
UMTS, also known as 3G, was the successor of 2G. Initially, the maximum speed 3G could reach, was 48kb/s. This was quickly boosted to a maximum of 256kb/s. The upload speeds reached were 48kb/s at most. Almost all 3G antennas in the Netherlands are in the 2100 MHz frequency band. The penetration strength of this high frequency is moderate. The disadvantage to this is that coverage is poor, especially indoors, in forests and in urban areas.
A radio wave, also called radiofrequency (RF) radiation, is a wave of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths ranging from roughly a thousand kilometers to a millimeter, that is, in the frequency range from several hundred Hz to several hundred GHz.
In 2013, KPN was the first to roll out the LTE (3.9G, but popularly called 4G) network. LTE is designed to be backwards compatible with the older (3G and 2G) systems. This allows antenna systems and other equipment to be used in combination.
LTE is much more flexible when it comes to bandwidth allocation, which means there is less congestion. There are several categories of LTE, but only a few are suitable (in terms of chip price and power consumption) to be used is in IoT or telemetry devices.
LTE-M is one of the newest standards to be used in IoT applications. The LTE-M modules (Long Term Evolution (4G), category M1), are specifically used for Machine-to-Machine applications. LTE-M is one of the two answers of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project to the increasing popularity of IoT network technology, together with its sibling NB-IoT. It is a wireless network in which Internet of Things applications can directly connect to the 4G network, without the need for a gateway (such as with LoRa, for example).
LTE-M is able to transfer data in real time and on the go, something that is not possible with NB-IoT. This, in combination with many more properties (including the price of a chip), makes the network specifically suitable for applications involving larger amounts of data in combination with the movement of an asset.
Sigfox is part of the LPWAN (Low Power Area Network) family. It supports a data transfer rate of only 100 bits per second, making it extremely economical when it comes to power consumption. Sigfox transmits very small data packets of only 12 bytes.
All data transmission takes place on just one backend, namely that of Sigfox. All data is made available to the integrator via an API. Due to the low power functionality, Sigfox is extremely suitable for communication from sensors; it only sends a maximum of 144 messages per day.
LoRaWAN nodes transmit a spread spectrum over an 868 Mhz frequency. This transmission is received by a gateway and forwarded to a network server via the internet.
LoRa-based devices are characterized by extremely low power consumption and therefore are very suitable for devices that need to operate on a (small) battery for a long time. A LoRa gateway has a smaller range than a Sigfox gateway, but is therefore more suitable (without GPS on board) to determine a fairly accurate location by means of triangulation.
Narrow Band IoT uses a subset of the LTE standard where the bandwidth is limited to a single narrowband (200kHz). NB-IoT has not yet been widely picked up by providers, but will certainly play a very large role in the IoT market. Existing solutions are used for the NB-IoT network, which, unlike LoRa and Sigfox, is a licensed network. NB IoT is again characterized by low costs in terms of hardware and low power functionality, and is specifically designed to work indoors as well.