As of March 2023, there are 92 countries with active 5G, the 5th generation mobile network. Here’s a breakdown per country. The 5G network is accessible to about:
- 25.2% of the population in India
- 40% of the population in the U.S.
- 55% of the 40% of the population in the UK
- 60% of the population in Canada
- 70% of the population in Japan
- 97% of the population in South Korea
As 5G gradually replaces 4G cellular networks in most countries, embedded devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) are upgrading to 4G modems.
A few years ago, 2G modems were preferred for use in embedded devices because of their low cost. But with the 5G revolution, this is changing. As a result, the costs for 3G and 4G modems are decreasing, with 4G becoming a fast favorite of designers.
If looking for a 4G modem for your next project, you’ll find several terms related to this cellular technology. Some modems are labeled LTE, LTE450, VoLTE, or optional VoLTE, which describes their network coverage. LTE, VoLTE, and LTE450 are different cellular technologies, which could lead to confusion.
In this article, we’ll cover these cellular technologies, including how they work with a GSM modem, which is the standard for digital cellular communication.
LTE vs. VoLTE
LTE (Long-Term Evolution) and VoLTE (Voice over LTE) are two key innovations in mobile technology. Although these acronyms might sound similar, they represent distinct technologies with specific functionalities.
What is LTE?
LTE is one result of a never-ending quest for mobile data networks that are quicker and more effective. After 3G (Third Generation) networks, LTE is the fourth generation (4G) of wireless cellular technology. Its primary goal is to provide high-speed data transfer for various mobile services. It was created to solve the inadequacies of its predecessors.
LTE is primarily data-centric, prioritizing efficient data transmission over the network. The technology facilitates web browsing, video streaming, app downloads, etc. It delivers a seamless mobile broadband experience.
It’s extremely efficient at everything from sending emails and messages to streaming high-definition videos. LTE delivers significantly higher data speeds than 3G networks and is optimized to handle many users simultaneously, providing a higher capacity for data transmission in densely populated areas.
What is VoLTE?
Voice over LTE, or VoLTE, represents an evolutionary step in mobile communication. It enhances the capabilities of LTE networks and includes voice services — allowing for voice calls to be made over the LTE network. This contrasts with older technologies like 2G and 3G, which were primarily used for voice calls only.
VoLTE was specifically created for voice communications. It replaces outdated voice technologies by using the capabilities of the LTE network to deliver high-quality voice conversations. Typically, VoLTE is linked to better call quality and is sometimes called “HD Voice.”
With less noise and interference, it enables crystal-clear voice calls. Additionally, it provides better power efficiency and longer battery life than non-VoLTE voice calls over LTE networks.
VoLTE also provides quicker call setup times, enabling users to make voice connections more swiftly. One of its standout features is the ability to simultaneously use voice and data services. This means you can browse the internet or use apps during a voice call without interruption.
How LTE and VoLTE differ?
Despite similar acronyms, these technologies are different. LTE was designed for high-speed data transfer and mobile internet services, whereas VoLTE was developed for high-quality voice conversations over LTE networks.
Where LTE handles data traffic, such as internet browsing and app usage, VoLTE covers voice traffic, allowing voice calls to be made over LTE.
Where LTE delivers high-speed data transmission, VoLTE requires enhancements to the LTE network to support voice calls, including Quality of Service (QoS) management for voice traffic. The same is true for the user devices. LTE is compatible with several devices, including older ones, while VoLTE requires VoLTE-enabled devices and network support. Older devices might not support VoLTE.
If we compare voice calls, LTE does not guarantee the same high-quality voice calls as VoLTE, which by default delivers the “HD voice.” LTE typically has longer call setup times, and it might not prioritize emergency calls.
Generally, VoLTE networks provide better QoS for voice calls, ensuring consistent call quality, even in congested network conditions. LTE prioritizes data traffic over voice, leading to potential voice call quality degradation during network congestion. Compared to voice conversations over LTE, those using VoLTE are usually more effective in managing power during voice calls.
However, LTE is a clear winner when it comes to coverage and interoperability. For voice conversations, LTE functions with several cellular technology generations (2G, 3G, and 4G). VoLTE is based on LTE networks and doesn’t rely on antiquated voice technology. LTE is commonly used for internet services. VoLTE roaming is less common and often uses 3G or 2G networks for voice calls.
It can be challenging to use LTE when making phone calls, and this frequently necessitates switching to 3G for audio calls. This is no issue with VoLTE. It allows simultaneous voice and data usage, enabling tasks like web browsing during a call.
What is LTE450?
Many 4G modems are labeled LTE450. LTE (Long-Term Evolution) and LTE450 (LTE Band 31) are part of the same wireless communication standard, but they operate on different frequency bands and are often used for different purposes.
LTE450 or LTE Band 31 is a specific frequency band within the LTE standard. LTE450 operates between 410 and 470 MHz in the 450 MHz frequency band. The use and accessibility of LTE450 might differ by region and country.
Devices (such as smartphones, tablets, and data modems) designed to work with LTE450 networks are required to access LTE services in their specific frequency band. These devices must support the precise frequency bands designated for LTE450 in each of these locations.
How LTE and LTE450 differ?
LTE450 specifically operates in the 450 MHz frequency band in the lower part of the spectrum. This band is between 410 and 470 MHz.
LTE operates on a range of frequency bands, including but not limited to 700 MHz, 1.8 GHz, and 2.6 GHz. The specific band used by LTE can vary depending on the region and the network provider. It also has shorter ranges and is optimized for delivering high-speed data in small, densely populated areas.
However, LTE bands are sometimes limited by buildings or infrastructure, making them better suited for outdoor use or areas with line-of-sight to cell towers.
LTE450 offers an extended range with a network optimized to deliver data services in rural and remote areas. It can more easily work through buildings and other obstacles, providing better coverage in challenging environments, including indoor settings.
LTE450 networks also require infrastructure, such as cell towers and base stations, that operate in the 450 MHz frequency range to provide internet services within the coverage area. Also, devices that support the 450 MHz band are required for use.
LTE450 is often used to extend LTE coverage, providing basic cellular coverage in less densely populated and rural areas. LTE is commonly used for high-speed data services, including mobile internet, video streaming, and app downloads in urban and densely populated areas.
What tech works best with IoT?
The cellular technologies that most IoT devices rely on include NB-IoT (Narrowband IoT), LTE-M (LTE for Machines), 5G, and LPWAN technologies like LoRaWAN and Sigfox.
There are only a few niche applications where embedded electronics require communication through mobile-specific cellular networks like LTE, LTE450, or VoLTE. For example, VoLTE is only used in smart devices that demand high-quality voice communication.
You might be designing a device that receives audio from a remote location. If you’re opting for a 4G modem in your device, it will also be LTE-enabled. You’ll likely only require LTE450 if the device is used in a remote or rural setting, providing there is infrastructure in the area that supports it.
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Filed Under: IoT, Tutorials