Bandwidth Availability

Radio Frequency (RF) bandwidth is a finite resource the entire world must share. Even with billions of connected devices, there’s more than enough to go around. But when too many of these devices use the same frequency bands in the same location, their signals interfere with each other.

A common example of this is WiFi in apartment buildings. Every resident with a WiFi router creates a separate network that uses the same frequencies (usually 5GHz or 2.4GHz). Since they’re so close together (in some cases on either side of the same wall), their signals can easily interfere when everyone tries to use these frequencies simultaneously.

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In IoT, you often have thousands of connected devices in relatively close proximity. As we continue adding billions of new devices, the RF spectrum will grow increasingly crowded. Signal interference and the availability of bandwidth are something manufacturers need to be aware of. Thankfully, there are several ways the industry is addressing this.

The solution

Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) worldwide pay for a license that essentially privatizes segments of the RF spectrum, like a toll lane on a highway, making it so that only their customers can access this bandwidth. Different MNOs who operate in the same area each have their own licensed bands, which helps decrease the likelihood of interference.

Some IoT solutions, like LoRaWAN, use unlicensed bands available to the public. These can be prone to interference in high-traffic areas, but this flexibility can help businesses avoid concentrating their devices on already crowded bands.

New IoT technologies are also finding more efficient ways to use bandwidth. Narrowband IoT, for example, is a cellular network technology that uses narrower bands, including the “guard bands,” which normally serve as unused gaps between networks.

While 5G isn’t quite ready for widespread use in IoT, it will soon give businesses access to a much greater range of the RF spectrum. This will allow the world to distribute IoT devices across more frequencies.