2G(GSM)/3G/4G(LTE)-how to choose your IOT?

Mobile network infrastructure and protocol can be traced back to a long time ago, and every new generation of mobile network will bring new opportunities to users. So far, we have used three concurrent network, namely 2G, 3G and 4G. However, it is difficult to make a decision on which to use for the cellular based IOT projects. Which one should be adopted?


IOT and 2G/3G/4G network

As for M2M and IOT devices, all network types mentioned are technologically applicable, and they can easily access modem. However, there are a lot of things to be considered when choosing proper cellular network modem for your next project.

Where will your device be used? Will the place be fully covered by 2G/3G/4G?

There are several open source selections (and telecom coverage map) to find the coverage scope of different network type in different areas. One case is the OpenSignal application procedure. In the article of OpenSignal, it has been explained comprehensively, and now it possesses a crowd-sourcing mobile coverage map.

LTE/4G enjoys a relatively good coverage in the most areas in the world, yet it still has some aspects to be improved. Global operators are finding high-speed data service, and thus it is conducive to the global LTE coverage. As for more detailed information about 4G coverage, you may refer to OpenSignal LTE state and general network information from spectrummonitoring.com and worldtimezone.com.

 On the other hand, 2G and 3G network will be closed in the ensuing years, which means that those IOT devices using this kind of modem may be cut down from the connection in the end. In most occasions, countries or regions may close either 2G or 3G rather than both, which process needs 1-2 years after the careful consideration and support of local mobile operators. European governments is considering to close 3G before 2G(such as Telenor of Norway), and American government only close 2G network. And Australian government will close both soon.


Which cellular frequency should your modem supports?

In other words, you need to identify the frequency scope which has been or needs to be distributed to your cellular modem in ultra-high frequency section.

Generally, you need to test 3 cellular network broadband sets, namely GSM band, UMTS band, and LTE band. Frequency section varies in accordance with nations or regions, so device engineers must ensure that there are similar frequency section in larger areas and specific modem has been used. Every nation or region has specific band broad applicable to different network types.

You must think carefully how much data have your device/applications used in longer period and summit period.

The safe choice is to use 4G/LTE modem, but its cost is higher than that of 2G/3G modem. Though the price of 4G is going down, it’s still much higher.

As for some situation, 2G/3G devices will be enough, especially when devices don’t need to receive or send a large amount of data. If 2G or 3G will not be closed in your targeted region, these two networks of lower price will be a better choice.

In conclusion, you need to consider the covering range of different types of network, supported frequency section and forbidden network when starting next cellular based IOT device or application.



The problem we are confronted with is that mobile network has not made accurate optimization to the mass devices in the larger scope of every region. There are few data used by mass devices in IOT, just 10KB or 1MB. As for the devices and cases of this kind, the market is turning to other network resolution, including NB-IoT, LoRa and LTE-M.

5G network is being designed for data of tens of thousands of MD or data which need to connect M2M/IoT devices and vehicles in mobile network anytime. 5G is a great progress on the basis of 4G and its new development (4.5G or 4.75 G), and it is expected to be rolled out in 2020.