How 2G/3G/4G/5G effect your IoT SIM performance


2G/3G/4G/5G are generations of GSM mobile networks. The higher the generation generally means a faster connection and lower the latency.

Choose the optimal GSM mobile network generation for your IoT application by considering the pros and cons of each.

GSM network generations have increased gradually over the years with 5G being the most recent and powerful generation so far and it is common to see speeds over 100mps which would have been unheard of not so long ago.

Let’s take a quick look at how things have evolved over the years:

  • 1991 – 2G
  • 2001 – 3G
  • 2009 – 4G
  • 2018 – 5G

These are the introduction dates for the technologies and the modems will lag behind for a while, the hardware cost is often much higher in the period immediately following launch and gradually decreases by the time is comes to a new generation being launched. So we are effectively chasing our tail continuously trying to keep up with advancements!

Multi Network SIM cards also lag behind in terms of when the new generations are made available to them by the mobile network’s. In the UK our multi network SIM card connects to all 4 mobile networks up to 4G and you get 5G on Vodafone, O2, EE and Three.

5G Hardware is now available for both 5G IoT, mobile broadband and even fixed broadband which means it is feasible for premises to be connected purely by a cellular connection. It would be amazing to use a multi network SIM card for extremely high data consumption or main broadband but it is not cost effective to do so which is where dual SIM devices come into there own by allowing you to have a multi network back up SIM card to keep you connected if your main SIM goes down.

Downgrading generation can be beneficial. At first glance you would assume that the higher the generation the higher and more resilient your solution would be. This is broadly correct especially if your higher generation device is backwards compatible to the previous generations.

As with most things there are exceptions to the rule. Lets imagine you are running a stall at a busy festival with tens of thousands of people present. Most of them will have a smartphone and will be sharing lots of video’s and photographs on social media. The majority will be connected to 4G and 5G on the local cell towers which puts enormous strain on the bandwidth and can result in there being none available to you. Now think about 2G it is effectively a legacy generation and the phones will not be connected to this band meaning your multi network 2G connection may actually be more useful than a more recent generation.

As with all things IoT there are lots of complexities and variables to consider and no one answer is applicable to every use case so it is very much a case of understanding the facts and aligning your needs with the most appropriate technology the best you can.

Keep in mind that with 3G sunsetting and CATM and NB-IOT being rolled out across the mobile networks the whole landscape of multi network SIM cards and IoT connectivity is undergoing huge change and evolution as we speak.