LPWAN vs. Cellular Networks: Which is Better for IoT?

LPWAN vs. Cellular Networks: Which is Better for IoT?

Time:2023-3-3 Author:Frank Chung

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a quickly expanding sector that enables data exchange and communication amongst commonplace gadgets. Home automation and smart cities are just a few examples of how this technology has ingrained itself into our daily lives. Yet, there is a demand for dependable and affordable communication networks due to the rise in IoT devices. Cellular networks and Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) can help with this. We will examine the distinctions between LPWAN and cellular networks in this post to determine which is preferable for the Internet of Things.

What is LPWAN?

In order to facilitate long-distance, low-bandwidth communication between IoT devices, low-power wide area networks (LPWAN) were developed. LPWANs are deployable without a license since they transmit data via unlicensed spectrum bands. As a result, LPWANs are a desirable alternative for IoT applications because they provide an affordable means to link lots of devices over a big region.

LoRaWAN, Sigfox, and NB-IoT are a few of the standards on which LPWAN technology is built. The network design, range, data rate, and power consumption of these standards vary.

What is Cellular Network?

Contrarily, cellular networks are the ones we regularly use to make calls, send texts, and use our cell phones to access the internet. Mobile networks are a strong choice for real-time data transfer applications since they are built for high-bandwidth, low-latency communication.

Since licensed spectrum bands are used by cellular networks to carry data, these networks are governed by government regulations. Moreover, this implies that cellular networks need a subscription plan, making them a more expensive choice for IoT applications.

LPWAN and Cellular Networks: Which is Better for IoT?

Your IoT application’s particular requirements will determine the answer. LPWAN might be a better choice if you need long-range, low-bandwidth communication between a lot of IoT devices spread out across a vast area. For low-power IoT devices, LPWANs often cost less, require less infrastructure, and have longer battery lives.

Cellular networks, on the other hand, can be a better choice if you need real-time data transmission or high-bandwidth connectivity. Cellular networks are a strong choice for applications that need real-time monitoring and control since they provide quicker data rates and lower latency than LPWANs.

LPWAN vs. Cellular Networks: A Comparison


LPWAN vs. Cellular Networks: Which is Better for IoT?

The range is one of the key distinctions between LPWAN and cellular networks. With a range of up to 10 kilometers in open areas, LPWANs are built for long-distance communication. For applications that require communication across a large region, such as smart city applications, this makes LPWANs an appealing choice.

In contrast, cellular networks often only have a few kilometers of range in urban areas. As a result, cellular networks are more suited for uses like home automation that call for communication over a constrained space.

Data Rate

Their respective data rates are another difference between LPWAN and cellular networks. LPWANs are made for low-bandwidth communication, and their usual data rates range from a few bytes to a few kilobits per second. For applications that need sporadic data transfer, such as environmental monitoring, LPWANs are a good choice.

Cellular networks, on the other hand, are built for high-bandwidth communication, with data rates varying from a few kilobits to several megabits per second. Since real-time data transmission is necessary for applications like video surveillance, cellular networks are a good choice in these situations.

Power Consumption

Another essential factor to take into account while deciding between LPWAN and cellular networks is power usage. Low-power devices with battery lives of several months to several years are the target audience for LPWANs. Because of this, LPWANs are a viable choice for applications like asset tracking that call for long-term, low-power operation.

On the other side, cellular networks demand more power, which can reduce the battery life of IoT devices. Because of this, cellular networks are a superior choice for systems that need to operate quickly and intensively, like emergency response systems.


Finally, the price must be taken into account while deciding between LPWAN and cellular networks. Because they operate in unlicensed spectrum areas and require less infrastructure, LPWANs are often less expensive than cellular networks. Because of this, LPWANs are a desirable alternative for applications like smart city applications that call for the deployment of numerous IoT devices over a big region.

Contrarily, cellular networks demand a subscription plan, which can increase their cost relative to LPWANs. Also, the additional infrastructure needed for cellular networks, like as base stations and cell towers, might raise the overall cost of creating an IoT network. As a result, cellular networks are a superior choice for applications requiring real-time data transfer or high-bandwidth communication, but they might not be as economical for those requiring low-power, long-range connectivity.

Limitations of LPWAN and Cellular Networks

Both LPWAN and Cellular Networks have their own limitations when it comes to IoT applications. Let’s take a closer look at the limitations of each option.

Limitations of LPWAN

Limited Bandwidth: LPWANs have a limited bandwidth because they are made to send little amounts of data across vast distances. They are therefore unsuited for high-bandwidth communication-required applications like streaming video or real-time monitoring of fast equipment.

Limited Range: Although LPWANs may send data over great distances, their reach is constrained by their surroundings. Buildings, hills, and trees can limit LPWANs’ range, making them unsuitable for applications that need for communication across a wide region.

Interference: Since LPWANs operate in unlicensed spectrum ranges, they are subject to disruption from other equipment that uses the same frequency. Deteriorating signals might result in poor communication quality and decreased network dependability.

Limitations of Cellular Networks

High Power Consumption: IoT devices that are intended to be low-power consuming may encounter issues due to the high power requirements of cellular networks. IoT devices’ battery life may be reduced as a result, which could be a significant disadvantage for applications that need long-term deployment.

Limited Coverage: Whereas the cellular networks provide greater coverage than LPWANs, it is still sometimes insufficient. Cellular Networks’ coverage in rural or distant places may not be enough, rendering them unsuitable for uses that call for communication across a wide area.

Cost: Because cellular networks need a subscription plan and more infrastructure than LPWANs, they can be more expensive. For applications requiring the deployment of numerous Internet of Things devices across a big area, this may make cellular networks less economically viable.


The decision between LPWAN and Cellular Networks will depend on the particular needs of your IoT application as both have advantages and disadvantages. Before choosing one choice over another, it is crucial to carefully weigh the range, data rate, battery usage, and cost of each. You can guarantee dependable, economical, and effective communication amongst your IoT devices by selecting the appropriate communication network for your IoT application.

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