IoT Connectivity: How to Choose the Right Option for Your Device

4 design factors to consider when connecting an IoT device

In the dynamic landscape of the Internet of Things (IoT), the choice of connectivity is a pivotal decision that significantly influences the performance, efficiency, and capabilities of connected devices. With the diverse range of IoT connectivity types, there’s a wide range of options tailored to specific use cases and requirements.

4 factors influencing your connectivity choices

Choosing the right IoT connectivity type involves careful consideration of factors such as range, power consumption, data transfer rates, and cost. We recommend a device-first approach to ensure your device connects everywhere, every time:

1. Device design

Device design starts with understanding the goal of your IoT initiative. This goal drives the functionality and design of the device. But the design can also limit the connectivity options available to you:


Smaller IoT devices can open up new opportunities. But their small size does restrict your choice of connectivity components. Cellular with its iSIM technology is providing huge opportunities for small devices, moving the cellular modem and SIM into a System-on-Chip (SoC), reducing the footprint required on the device for connectivity components.


A scalable connectivity solution is key to building a robust and sustainable IoT deployment, especially when dealing with mass production and large-scale implementations. The number of devices, network capacity, resource efficiency, deployment flexibility, global reach, cost implications, latency, security, and overall management of the IoT ecosystem, will all influence the choice of connectivity for your device. And as you deploy more devices, the ability to manage your IoT estate remotely can help control costs. By planning ahead with the right connectivity type, you can design devices with over-the-air software updates and management capability.

With new technological advancements offering extensive global coverage, high bandwidth and low power consumption, cellular networks are a popular choice for growing businesses with global deployments.

LoRa, Sigfox and NB-IoT offer long-range connectivity at a lower cost than cellular, but they can have limitations on the number of devices that can be connected.

2. Environmental factors

Where you device will be operating may also limit your connectivity options, with infrastructure and network availability varying in rural and urban areas or from region to region:

Urban vs. Rural

High-density, urban environments often have well-established and dense telecommunication infrastructure. Short-range, high-capacity connectivity solutions such as Wi-Fi, 4G, and 5G networks are commonly used in urban settings for their high data rates and low latency.

In rural areas, where devices are spread over larger distances and power sources are limited or less reliable, long-range and low-power connectivity solutions like LoRa, Sigfox, or satellite communication may be more suitable. Cellular connectivity is also an excellent solution for IoT deployments where wired connectivity simply isn’t possible – for example, where mobility is central to the use case or in challenging physical environments.

3. Data transmission needs

Your business case and data strategy should be a driving factor in your connectivity choices. What data you are collecting, how you store and manage the data and the frequency of transmission can all influence the connectivity choice:

Real-time vs. Batch Processing

The decision between real-time and batch processing can influence the selection of IoT connectivity. Real-time processing often favours low-latency communication technologies like MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) or CoAP (Constrained Application Protocol), whereas batch processing can use periodic communication through protocols such as HTTP or HTTPS.

Data Volume and Frequency

Low-power and low-bandwidth protocols like LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) or Zigbee might be appropriate for scenarios where small amounts of data are transmitted infrequently.

While 4G/5G cellular networks or Wi-Fi connections are preferred for applications that require real-time streaming of substantial data. High-bandwidth connectivity options such as 5G are well-suited for real-time applications with low-latency requirements, especially when rapid transmission of large data volumes is involved.

Data security and sovereignty

All IoT devices collect and receive data by their very nature. It’s important to consider the security and sovereignty of that data including how it is handled, stored and transmitted. Cellular networks (3G, 4G, and 5G) provide strong encryption and subscriber authentication mechanisms, making them suitable for applications requiring high levels of security. Whereas, LoRaWAN, Sigfox or cellular solutions using localised SIMs and PoPs may be chosen for applications that require data to be stored or processed within specific geographic boundaries.

4. Power Constraints

A major challenge for businesses wanting to deploy battery-powered IoT edge devices is knowing how long the batteries will last. Registering with a network, transferring data, switching cells when devices move and transmitting from inaccessible locations or across wide areas all require some power. And even small amounts of power can – cumulatively – have a considerable impact on battery life.

Low-power connectivity options, like Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technologies (e.g., LTE-M, LoRa, NB-IoT), may be more suitable for small devices, as they allow for longer battery life.

Comparing IoT connectivity options

Choosing the right IoT connectivity type involves careful consideration of factors such as range, power consumption, data transfer rates, and cost.

Here’s a quick overview and comparison of the different connectivity options.



Data Rate / Power Consumption



< 1 GHz

1 MBps

Up to 50m


100 MBps

Up to 50m


- Zigbee

- Z-Wave

100 KBps

Up to 100m

GSM (2G, 3G)

Cellular bands

1 - 100 MBps

Up to 10km

LTE (4G)

Cellular bands

100 MBps

Up to 10km

LTE (5G)

Cellular bands

Up to 1GBps

Up to 10km

Licensed cellular LPWAN



- NB-IoT

Up to 1 MBps

Over 10km

Unlicensed LPWAN


- LoRa

- Sigfox

Up to 20 KBps

Over 10km

Cellular networks are based on open, global industry standards, use licensed spectrum, and are always operated by wireless network providers.

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.

Cellular connectivity allows information to be sent back and forth using mobile networks and includes services like 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, LTE Cat. 0, LTE Cat M, NB-IoT, 4G LTE, LTE Advanced and 5G.

The LoRaWAN specification is a LPWA networking protocol. The protocol uses the proprietary LoRa radio modulation technology, which is owned by Semtech.

Devices broadcast data via radio waves to a nearby LoRaWAN gateway. The gateway forwards the data to an internet server, which relays the data to an application in the cloud or a data centre.

It has a large ecosystem of developers producing LoRaWAN-based hardware and software. However, semiconductors are only available from Semtech or its licensees.

3GPP satellite connectivity refers to the implementation of the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards for wireless communication in satellite networks. This technology enables businesses to establish robust and reliable communication links using satellites (including Low Earth Orbit satellites – LEOs) in areas where terrestrial connectivity is limited or unavailable.

Satellite connectivity enables businesses to overcome geographical barriers, ensures efficient and secure communication, supports scalability of operations into more challenging environments.

Using more than one type of connectivity

Demand for multi-RAT connectivity is increasing. Multi-RAT connectivity solutions give IoT devices total connectivity freedom to choose which radio type they connect to, and it’s getting much more economically feasible to have multiple radios in a single device, particularly if you can get to sub-$1 for a Wi-Fi Bluetooth chip.

You can tailor the mix of RAT types to the unique requirements of the device and application, combining and optimising network technologies. As a result, you have the freedom and control to switch between different network technologies and operators that match your requirements.

IoT devices that support a combination of cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Near Field Communication (NFC), satellite and other protocols are much more resilient to changing connectivity environments. This multi-RAT capability enables the device to optimise connectivity and helps to future-proof the IoT initiative and estate.

Uncover the Power of Intelligent Connectivity

To learn more about how Eseye utilises Multi-RAT connectivity read our AnyNet SMARTconnect™ solution paper.

Learn more

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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