Cellular IoT (LTE-M and NB-IoT)

Enabling a world of everything connected

Why cellular IoT

When evaluating the most suitable low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) technology for your Internet of Things (IoT) application, it's crucial to consider various factors beyond just technical specifications, which in itself can widely diverge from real-world performance. These are some of the key reasons why cellular IoT (comprising NB-IoT and LTE-M) can be a more suitable choice for your IoT project as opposed to LoRaWAN, Sigfox, Wi-SUN, or other LPWANs.

 icon Licensed vs unlicensed frequency bands: Cellular IoT operates in licensed frequency bands that leverage existing global infrastructure. While they entail subscription fees, they guarantee wide coverage, scalability, built-in quality of service, reliability, and uncompromising security. This allows you to focus on your specific IoT product development without the need to deploy and maintain infrastructure associated with other LPWAN technologies operating in unlicensed frequency bands.
 icon Data rate & robustness: As LPWAN technologies are typically used for devices that transmit/receive data infrequently, many are optimized for this use case. However, certain operations benefit from higher data rates, such as remote firmware updates. This is where cellular IoT stands-out as it can serve the infrequent data transmissions as well as the more intensive data bursts when they are needed.
 icon Power consumption: NB-IoT and LTE-M technologies were developed to enable low power, massive machine type communication applications. While other LPWAN technologies may look better on paper, that can often change drastically based on the use case and many other factors, and it comes at the cost of limited data rates. With cellular IoT you don't need to compromise between power consumption and data rates, you get the best of both worlds.
 icon Lifetime cost: While the up-front cost of some LPWAN technologies might look appealing, it's crucial to evaluate the full lifetime costs (deployment, data transmission, firmware updates, additional infrastructure setup and maintenance, etc), as that can greatly differ between technologies depending on the intended use case. Cellular IoT has a variety of connectivity models, from flat rates to pay-per-data, which brings predictable costs and removes concerns associated with own infrastructure maintenance.
icon Future-proof: LTE-M and NB-IoT are expected to be supported for until 2040 and beyond, since devices utilizing these technologies have a typical 10+ years lifespan. Your carrier subscription also works as insurance for a stable and maintained network during the full lifetime of your device. Infrastructure for other LPWAN technologies can suddenly be removed or shutdown, rendering your devices inoperative and putting your business at risk.

Location services

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Location services are the cornerstone for devices being able to position themselves accurately, quickly and efficiently. By utilizing our single-cell (SCELL), multi-cell (MCELL), assisted GPS (A-GPS), predicted GPS (P-GPS) and/or Wi-Fi location features, customer's devices can determine their location while balancing accuracy and power consumption.

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Read more about location services or dive into our location performance comparison on the DevZone blog.

Platform Security Architecture (PSA)


Among the first to gain PSA Certification

The nRF9160 SiP was among the first solutions to become Level 1 PSA Certified in the PSA certification scheme.

Today the nRF9160 SIP is PSA Certified for Level 2.

For more information read the nRF9160 SiP PSA certification news release.

PSA Certified logo

Cellular IoT connectivity

Enhanced by Nordic

Unique modem firmware features solving real IoT challenges

At Nordic Semiconductor, we are dedicated to pushing the boundaries of ultra-low power in all our devices. We continuously enhance our firmware with innovative features that focus on optimizing performance, minimizing power consumption, and addressing specific challenges faced by cellular IoT applications. Our modem incorporates a range of advanced features designed to elevate the performance of your end applications. Here are a few examples of these game-changing features that deliver superior results.

Software SIM support 

The nRF91 Series supports Software SIM, securely running on the application processor, with Onomondo as the first partner with their SoftSIM solution. This innovative technology brings numerous benefits, including cost savings by reducing SIM and bill-of-materials (BoM) expenses, simplifying the design process, and lowering power consumption. With SoftSIM, the need for physical SIM cards and SIM sockets is eliminated, resulting in a streamlined and compact end-product design. For more detailed information, please refer to the news release Nordic Semiconductor and Onomondo bring ‘world’s first’ software SIM to low power cellular IoT and our nRF Connect SDK 2.5.0 webinar that includes a demo showcasing the Software SIM power consumption benefits.


Power Saving Mode (PSM) for roaming devices

This is a game-changing feature for global cellular deployments, as it enables PSM-like sleep mode even in network environments where normal PSM usage is not supported, such as with roaming SIM cards. This avoids the need to brute force shutdown the model, as our system is intelligently designed to handle power-saving transitions smoothly, providing outstanding benefits in power consumption.

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When this mode is activated, it will seamlessly switch to normal PSM when available from the network ensuring optimal power-saving capabilities at all times.

Pre-evaluation of a connection

Experience enhanced power management with our modem's pre-evaluation feature. Before connecting and transmitting data, our modem evaluates the estimated power consumption it would most likely use when sending data, and provides valuable insights in the form of estimate categories (Excellent, Good, Normal, Poor, or Bad Conditions) and raw parameters such as radio link quality, RSRP, RSRQ, SNR, CE level, TX Power, repetitions, pathloss, and more.

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By analyzing the radio environment on the downlink of a cell, your application can decide whether to send data to ensure energy efficiency in data transmission. This is available through the LTE Link Controller library or via the AT Command %CONEVAL, and more details on how to use this is described in the Energy Estimate guideline.

Improved NB-IoT connection management

Moving between base stations can be a disruptive and power hungry operation for NB-IoT devices. Our modem firmware has enhanced mobility support for NB-IoT devices, reducing the overall power consumption when changing to a different base station. 


Conversely, if an NB-IoT device is static (e.g. utility meters), switching base stations is undesired, which can happen accidentally if there is a temporary drop in link quality to the closest base station. With our reduced mobility support feature the device stays connected to the same base station, avoiding the power consumption penalty of switching to a different base station and back.


Country-specific search optimization

Make network selection seamless when moving to a new area or deploying cellular devices to a new location with our country-specific search optimization. Our modem enables faster network selection by storing essential information like Mobile Country Code, Bands, Radio Frequency Channel Number, and LTE-M/NB-IoT in a prioritized list. Using our Nordic-proprietary %XCOUNTRYDATAcommand, you can configure country-specific search parameters, which accelerate network selection in unfamiliar locations. If necessary, our modem will perform full searches to ensure service availability. Rest assured, our feature complies with 3GPP network selection rules defined in 3GPP TS 23.122, ensuring a reliable and efficient network connection.

Modem domain event notification

Stay in control of your modem's performance with our comprehensive modem domain event notification feature. Receive timely alerts for crucial events such as "SEARCH STATUS 1," "SEARCH STATUS 2," "RESET LOOP," "ME OVERHEATED," and "ME BATTERY LOW." These notifications play a vital role in decision-making, especially after a "Light search" (SEARCH STATUS 1), where the modem utilizes intelligent network selection algorithms. With these notifications, you can optimize power consumption, prevent overheating, and ensure uninterrupted connectivity. Gain valuable insights into your modem's behavior and make informed choices with our modem domain event notification feature either through the LTE link Controller library or AT Command %MDMEV.