Cellular vs satellite communications for IoT

Paul Marshall

Founder & CCO


Trying to decide between cellular and satellite communications for your smart device? You’ve come to the right place.

It’s likely that your asset tracking device will cross many national and international boundaries if you work in fleet management or the supply chain and logistics industry. It’s important that it maintains continuous connectivity no matter where it goes, and consistently transmits the telematics data back to you in real-time.

For many businesses, the connectivity decision narrows down to satellite or cellular solutions. Both are commonly used for asset tracking and sometimes companies use a combination of both to achieve the coverage they require. In this article, discover which one is right for your business.

How does cellular connectivity work?

Cellular connectivity works for IoT by transmitting data packets over-the-air through wireless spectrum to mobile network operator’s cell towers. There are over 700 mobile networks in the world and thousands of cell towers. At Eseye, the data then flows to one of our points of presence (PoPs) through our high-speed Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) network. It then goes from the Eseye egress PoP over the internet to the customer’s network where incoming data is received and stored.

How does satellite connectivity work?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) works by transmitting data using a network of satellites orbiting in space using radio navigation signals. Data flows from the device directly up to the satellite, this then triggers a signal to the closed land-based station, which communicates with the receiver.

Why you should choose cellular instead of satellite


Satellite is notoriously expensive because not only is it costly to build, it needs to be sent up into orbit and then constantly maintained. You’ll find the hardware required for cellular tracking is typically less expensive, and monthly data plans can be more affordable too. In contrast, satellite hardware and data plans can be significantly more expensive, making cellular a more budget-friendly option for many businesses.

Coverage and availability

Cellular networks are more readily available worldwide, whereas satellite coverage can have gaps in remote or extreme locations. In fact, cellular generally provides better coverage in urban and suburban areas, where most tracking applications are used. Did you know that satellite signals can be obstructed by buildings, trees, and other obstacles, making them less reliable in certain environments?

Real-time tracking

Cellular networks offer lower latency compared to satellite networks. This low latency enables real-time tracking and communication, which can be crucial for businesses that need to monitor and manage assets, vehicles, or personnel in near real-time.

Device size and power consumption

Tracking devices often have to be small and lightweight by design. Cellular is less demanding on battery life than satellite and will enhance power performance. This is important for applications where size and battery life are critical factors, such as tracking personal devices, vehicles, or wildlife.

Data bandwidth

Cellular networks generally offer higher data bandwidth compared to satellite networks. This can be beneficial for applications that require the transmission of large amounts of data, such as video streaming from a dashcam.

Integration with other services

Cellular connectivity is often easier to integrate with other services, such as web-based tracking platforms, mobile apps, and cloud services. This makes it more convenient for businesses to leverage data and analytics for decision-making.

Regulatory and legal considerations

In some regions, there may be regulatory restrictions on the use of satellite technology for tracking purposes, or there may be additional licensing requirements. Cellular connectivity may be a simpler and more compliant option in such cases.

Cellular asset tracking success


t42 specialises in wireless systems that track, monitor and protect a variety of assets. Its Helios GPS solution provides automated real-time information on vehicles and drivers, via IoT-enabled devices. t42 required reliable and comprehensive cellular coverage to expand its footprint and support customers globally.

High-performing IoT connectivity was a non-negotiable. Integrating Eseye’s multi-IMSI AnyNet+ eSIM into its Helios system has brought t42 and its customers consistent and fast global IoT connectivity.

As a result, wherever the asset is, t42’s devices instantly connect to the best and most available network, and switch seamlessly to another if connectivity is interrupted, guaranteeing uptime of almost 100%. In addition to tracking and securing vehicles, this enables t42 to offer advanced features such as battery status and safety warnings.

BT Final Mile

BT Final Mile is a smart locker service, introduced by BT with the goal of ensuring that telecoms engineers are no more than 15 minutes’ drive from the parts they need. Its network of intelligent lockers is connected by IoT technology.

BT Final Mile Locker

Eseye’s in-house IoT device design consultancy brought BT’s vision from idea to proof of concept in weeks, overcoming challenges such as the need for the units to be exceptionally robust. Eseye’s AnyNet+ SIM card is embedded into each locker, delivering 100% cellular connectivity by ensuring it’s connected to the strongest possible network at all times. Engineers are instantly alerted when items arrive at the box, and receive one-time codes to unlock them. The devices also track usage and system functionality, and allow firmware updates to be made over-the-air.

As a result of the initiative engineers spend less time travelling, which has enabled BT to reduce its delivery costs and carbon footprint, as well as provide a better service.

Selecting your connectivity solution

In a time of rising costs and inflation, it’s important to weigh up which connectivity type is best for your use case and budget. New technology advancements in cellular connectivity such as eUICC and multi-IMSI make cellular an extremely attractive choice for businesses that want to remain competitive.

Paul Marshall

Founder & CCO


Paul is one of Eseye’s co-founders. With a background in senior design engineering, Paul’s focus is on ensuring his development, operations and support teams deliver solutions that work faultlessly in the field.

Paul was co-founder of CompXs, with Ian Marsden, and developed the world’s first IEEE 802.15.4 radio. Before CompXs, Paul was in senior radio design at Philips.

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