An article by Polina Hristova for ROCCO

The words on everyone’s lips in the telecom world right now are “the Internet of Things”. IoT this, IoT that, how do we effectively deploy it, how do we minimize costs and increase profits–a conundrum as old as humanity itself. Is it secure, will our clients be safe from attacks and other vulnerabilities which could render the device useless or even endanger their lives? Eh, let’s first concentrate on what matters.

If you poke these restless minds a little, even in their sleep they will start uttering things and it might seem like they need exorcism at first but no–those are abbreviations for… everything. LTE-M, NB-IOT, CAT-M1–what?

Fragmentation within IoT is inevitable given its broad spectrum; one standard wouldn’t completely replace another–they complement each other. But many think that Release 13 of 3GPP (the group behind 3G, LTE etc) presented the industry with a “dilemma” – CAT-M1 (LTE-M) vs. NB-IOT. But it’s like comparing apples and oranges and all the above can be abbreviated into a simple new acronym which is M-IoT or “Mobile IoT”.

According to the general perception, NB-IOT offers better coverage, lower power consumption and happens to be a lot cheaper. Its closest rivals are Sigfox and LoRa. However, these perceptions are starting to shift after some experts in the field proved them wrong or rather underlined the subjectivity of this decision.

CAT-M1 is the only fully available option at the moment which implies connecting the IoT devices to existing LTE networks. It would work great for more advanced applications and it’s already standardized; its performance is slightly inferior to 3G but it would be more than enough to support these low-power, long-range applications. Some think that we should plan ahead and adopt CAT-M1 which would give us more flexibility for future applications. Also, it offers full mobility which NB-IOT does not.

But it depends. It depends entirely on your needs. One cannot completely wipe out the other. Some devices will never be moved and their apps won’t have any fancy features – the LTE-M extravaganza might be too much for them.

The real advantage of CAT-M1 over NB-IOT or anything out there at the moment is that CAT-M1 is compatible with the current network. It’s a matter of software, not as much as hardware, whereas with NB-IOT, different tech is implemented making its deployment a bit more costly but not by much. However, NB-IOT eliminates the need for a gateway–sensor data is sent directly to the main server.

The industry is divided –big names like Ericsson, Qualcomm, Vodafone are enthusiastically backing up the NB-IOT solution, whereas other big players like Orange, SK Telecom, AT&T, Verizon, Teléfonica, KPN Telecom NV stand behind LTE-M. What will it be?

NB-IOT vs. LTE-M – is that even a thing? Why do they have to be mutually exclusive? What do you think?

Shortly ROCCO will launch it’s M-IoT survey for MNOs. If you’re interested in MNO’s positioning on this topic let us know if there’s some specific area you would vale having insights into. simply contact us at

ROCCO is also currently conducting a IoT Security Survey for MNOs (read about it here). If you’re an MNO working with IoT and Security is on your mind, you’re going to get a lot out of taking part in this survey.