eMTC (enhanced machine-type communication) and NB-IoT (narrowband Internet of Things) are two mobile IoT standards. Both the eMTC and NB-IoT mobile IoT network standards have often competed and created confusion over their application scope. In fact, both standards have distinct technical advantages and can work together, so there is no better choice. As a result, the competition is decided by who can reduce their module chip costs faster, who has a higher degree of commercialization, and whose network construction is better.
This issue finally got resolved in June 2017, when the 76th plenary meeting of the 3GPP issued Rel. 15 representing a consensus on the future evolution of mobile IoT technology (including NB-IoT and eMTC). It stated that future systems with a bandwidth under 1.4 MHz would not use eMTC terminals and future systems with a bandwidth over 200 KHz would not use NB-IoT terminals.
This 3GPP resolution promotes the orderly development of M-IoT by clearly delineating the application scopes of eMTC and NB-IoT. Thus, the two standards are no longer in competition but form a hybrid network with differentiated and complementary cooperation. Now, let's compare the two standards over their technical and application aspects.
Technical Features of eMTC and NB-IoT
When comparing peak speeds, NB-IoT only supports data speeds under 200 Kbit/s, while eMTC can reach 1 Mbit/s. Regarding portability, because NB-IoT does not support automatic zone switching, terminals that use this standard are not portable. eMTC provides much better portability.
In terms of voice functionality, NB-IoT does not support voice transmission, while eMTC does. When it comes to terminal costs, NB-IoT's unified module and chip standard has reduced prices to around 5 USD, while eMTC prices are higher and falling more slowly.
Comparing zone capacities, we have seen that eMTC has not advanced in this direction, so it cannot satisfy the needs of high connection volume scenarios. In contrast, NB-IoT offers a coverage radius 30% larger than eMTC. eMTC's coverage is about 9 dB below NB-IoT.
For how to create a hybrid NB-IoT/eMTC networks and the road ahead, please go to Choosing Between eMTC and NB-IoT.
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