Guide To Different IoT Connectivity Solutions

IoT Connectivity Solutions.

Although the term ‘Internet of Things’ or IoT can be used to refer to many different things, it is mainly about connecting different computing devices to each other via the internet.

Thus, connectivity remains a big focus in any IoT deployments. With the advancements in IoT, a larger amount of data is being transported every minute and even every second, and at the same time, more IoT devices are now deployed in remote areas. Thus, now there are more demands for better connectivity options with more range, more bandwidth, and yet with as little power consumption as possible.

This is why more and more IoT connectivity options are being invented, and choosing between the different IoT connectivity options is always a major challenge in IoT deployment with all the different options available.

Three Main Factors Commanding IoT Connectivity Options

As briefly discussed above, the most ideal IoT connectivity solution must:

  1. Offer high bandwidth: can transmit and receive the highest volume of data as possible at any given time.

  2. Has high coverage range: ideally, should allow two different IoT devices located thousands of miles away in different countries to be connected to the same network.

  3. Has low power consumption: since most IoT devices rely on battery power, then the connectivity solution must consume as little power as possible.

Obviously, such a perfect IoT connectivity option doesn’t exist, and so when choosing between different options, it’s about which of the three factors you’d be willing to sacrifice.

With that being said, let’s discuss the common IoT connectivity options and their ‘sacrifices’.

1. Cellular IoT

Overview: long range, high bandwidth, high power consumption.

Cellular connectivity remains one of the most popular connectivity options in IoT, especially for large-scale IoT deployments. Cellular connectivity is currently one of the two sole options (besides satellite) that allow international and global-scale IoT installation. Useful, for example, in automated vehicles and sensors in vehicles that move between borders.

There are various network providers offering specialized IoT data plans with regional, international, and global IoT connectivity. Truphone for Things, for example, offers regional and global data plans with coverage in 100+ countries.

Cellular IoT connectivity offers very long range and high bandwidth, but the major downside is that it consumes a lot of battery power. 4G LTE, 3G, and the newer 5G connectivities are the standard cellular connectivity options, but there are also specialized protocols developed solely for IoT like Cat M (LTE M) and NB-IoT (NarrowBand IoT).

2. Wi-Fi

Overview: short range, high bandwidth, low to medium power consumption.

Wi-Fi is also a common connectivity option most of us are familiar with. It’s widely available and very reliable with high bandwidth.

A key characteristic of Wi-Fi is that it offers lower power consumption than cellular connectivity, at the expense of range. That is, it can only be used in a fairly short range, making it especially popular in smart home and smart office IoT implementations.

3. Bluetooth

Overview: short range, medium bandwidth, low power consumption.

Bluetooth used to be notorious for its high power consumption but with the advent of Bluetooth LE (Low Energy), Bluetooth can now send data at a fairly short range with lower power consumption than Wi-Fi. However, it offers a lower bandwidth than Wi-Fi, making it more useful for smaller IoT devices that only transmit a small amount of data (i.e. smart thermostat), as well as wearables (i.e. how your Apple Watch pair with your iPhone).

4. Mesh IoT

Overview: long range, low bandwidth, low power consumption.

Mesh IoT network, or meshnet is a network topology when devices are wirelessly connected to each other, and each of these devices piggybacks off each other to ‘prolong’ the signal transmission, allowing a fairly long range of data transmission.

Mesh network offers a way for us to connect many battery-powered devices that don’t require a high amount of data transmission. Zigbee, Z-Wave, and Thread are three popular examples of mesh IoT connectivity, commonly used in smart home installations.

A unique thing about meshnet is that when one device (a node) goes off, the rest can still send and receive data reliably.

5. Satellite

Overview: long range, high bandwidth, high power consumption.

Similar to cellular connectivity in many ways, but satellites literally cover the whole globe including areas not covered by cellular towers. Can reliably send a high volume of data at high speed, but just like cellular connectivity, it consumes a lot of power.

Also, satellite connectivity is the most expensive IoT connectivity solution, both in the initial infrastructure cost and ongoing fees. Thus, it is only used in areas where cellular connectivity is not available, such as when a sensor is deployed in the North Pole or in the middle of the ocean.

6. LPWAN (Low-Power Wide Area Network)

Overview: long range, low bandwidth, low power consumption.

LPWAN is a group of newer connectivity technologies developed specifically for IoT, allowing us to connect devices that are separated miles away while only using very low power. The tradeoff is bandwidth, as you can typically only send a very small amount of data with LPWAN connectivity technologies, although this may change in the near future.

LoRaWAN, Ingenu, and SigFox are the most popular examples of LPWAN technologies, and while they aren’t yet as popular as other options here, they are emerging to be a bigger player in the near future.

Range VS Bandwidth VS Power Consumption

To summarize, we can differentiate the available IoT connectivity options into three main groups:

  1. High coverage range, high bandwidth, high power consumption: cellular connectivity and satellite connectivity.

  2. Low coverage range, high bandwidth, low power consumption: wired connection (i.e. Ethernet LAN), Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth LE.

  3. High coverage range, low bandwidth, low power consumption: various LPWAN solutions like LoRaWan, and mesh networks.


As a general rule of thumb, you should choose an IoT connectivity option that can fulfill your IoT project’s needs based on range, bandwidth, and power consumption needs.

However, you should also consider how easy it is to scale your IoT project with the connectivity solution for your future needs. For example, as you add new devices to the IoT network, consider whether you’ll need to pay more and whether the quality of the connection can be maintained.

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