2G/3G/4G/5G/ LPWAN in GPS Tracking

Jimi loTJimi loT2021-03-24

The use of mobile networks like 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, and even LPWAN in GPS/GNSS tracking will be discussed in detail in this article. These network connection types have a significant effect on the tracking, and they are essential in aiding the standalone GPS/GNSS-based tracking systems.

1. Differences between Mobile Networks (2G/3G/4G/5G/LPWAN)

Before we start discussing wireless networks' role in GPS positioning, it is crucial to know the main difference.

2G Network

The letter G stands for Generation, and each generation of mobile network has its own specifications. 2G was the first mobile network that started using Digital communication for the first time. Before this, the 1G was based on analog signals incorporating the radio signals.

2G and all other above network generations use different multiplexing techniques such as CDMA and GSM to provide reliable communication. It provides speed limited from 50 Kbps to 1 Mbps which is its main drawback if speed is concerned.

3G Network

Over time, 3G communication was introduced, which came with some additional features. It made mobile communication relatively better than the 2G networks due to its increased speed limit and more features.

Unlike 2G, the 3G network is mainly based on a newer technology called the UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunication Systems). The main difference between 3G and 2G networks is speed and newer technology, like mentioned before.

However, the main drawback of the 3G network was its cost. 3G networks require base stations to be closer to each other, which means more base stations to cover the whole region and, as a result, an increased price.

4G Network

4G provides much better communication as compared to the previous networks. It is all because the 4G network uses a newer technology called Long Term Evolution (LTE). One of the 4G network's main advantages is the speed and reliability of performance while the receiver is mobile.

For a mobile device, the network can provide speed ranging from 100Mbps to 1Gbps, which is quite useful. In addition to this, 4G networks have reduced latency from 300 ms to below 100ms (depending upon the situation).

However, apart from the higher speed and better communication, the 4G network consumes more battery. Simultaneously it costs more data which increases the overall cost of the usage.


Low power wide area network is a newer technology that provides reliable coverage needed for the robust IoT sensors. There are four leading LPWAN technologies that can be divided into two groups based on their spectrum.

  • Licensed - Cellular LPAWN

The Cellular LPAWN technology uses a licensed spectrum, and in addition to this, cellular infrastructure is also required for the data transmission. Since there is a little co-channel interference, this ensures reliable data transmission. 

Having that said, the operation of Cellular LPWAN requires more complex protocols since n-nodes must first get permission from the base station to send messages. It could sometimes get several attempts to get approved which can increase the power consumption. 

  • License-Free (Ultra-Narrowband LPWAN)

In contrast to cellular LPWAN, ultra-narrowband LPWAN uses very little bandwidth to send messages. The lower data rate of the technology enables the receiver to detect and decode the message even at a greater distance.

This is one of the main features of the LPWAN in IoT and GPS tracking.  However, the long-range o the ultra-narrowband LPWAN comes at the cost of increased power consumption. It is because the transmission time of the data increases since it is sent in ultra-low bands. 

Apart from that, it is also vulnerable to interferences from other systems working in the same frequency band. 

  • Spread Spectrum 

This solution transmits a narrow signal over a wide frequency band. The frequency band is usually harder to intercept and detect. In order to compensate for the noise floor and improve the quality, coding is also added to the signal. 

It also results in improved receiver sensitivity, therefore, achieving long-range. However, spreading a narrowband signal over a wide band increases the risk of self-interference that limits the network capacity. 

  • Telegram Splitting 

In order to cope up with the above problem, there is another technique called telegram splitting. This method splits the ultra-narrowband signal into multiple smaller sub packets. These packets are sent at different times and frequencies with transmission-free periods in between. 

Short on airtime and pseudo randomness in the signal helps minimize the collisions' likelihood with other sub packets. This helps increases the quality of the transmission and reduces interference, and improves scalability. 

However, not all industrial requirements and operations are the same. Therefore, each one must use a different type of LPWAN technology. You need to ensure that you select the right technology for your application. 

In order to learn how to choose the right network for your applications, you need to know the seven factors of choosing your network. We will guide you on how to choose the right type of network for your industry based on those seven factors at the end of this article. 


LTE-M may sound similar to the LTE network, but there is a difference between the two technologies. The LTE-M is also called CAT-M1, which uses only 1.4 MHz instead of the 20 MHz, which typically an LTE network use.

Apart from that, there is also a difference in the uplink and download speed of the LTE-M network. It can provide approximately 1 Mbps but generally, it ranges from 100 to 300 Kbps. The latency of the network is around 10 to 15 ms which is excellent for mobile tracking applications.

Apart from that, the expected battery life of LTE-M devices is usually higher than other services. In addition to this, the LTE-M also features VoLTE that supports voice communication. 


In contrast to the LTE-M, the NB-IoT is a narrowband IoT that uses only 200 KHz bandwidth. It is only half-duplex as opposed to the LTE-M, which is a full-duplex. The max data rate of the NB-IoT is 250 Kbps, but there is no roaming support. 

Since it doesn't support roaming, this technology is suitable for static applications only. The network’s latency is relatively slow as it is in the region of 1.6 to 10 seconds. Due to the narrowband width of the signal, the battery life of NB-IoT devices is perfect. 

NB-IoT has three modes of operation, i.e., you can use it in the following ways. 

  • Standalone
  • within LTE 
  • Guard Band 


The fifth-generation communication network, i.e., 5G, is currently under development in many areas. However, its primary purpose is to further improve mobile communication and cover some other drawbacks of the previous network.

The max speed of 5G networks is targeted to be about 35.46 Gbps which is over 35 times the previous networks. However, the 5G network still has some drawbacks, including reduced range due to the frequency waves’ shorter travel distance.

Apart from that, an obstruction can be a significant problem in the path of the 5G signals. Because of the shorter wavelength of the wave, it won't be able to overcome the obstruction. This means that 5G networks can only work better in line-of-sight scenarios such as the traditional GPS/GNSS signals.

Apart from that, the 5G network will only be limited to areas with high populations. Therefore, this lack of widespread coverage can have a significant effect on some applications such as tracking.

2. 2G/3G/4G/5G/ LPWAN in Tracking Applications

After reading the above section of the article, you may have a solid idea about different cellular networks and their types. These networks are used in different tracking devices to enhance the capabilities of the standalone GNSS.

It not only helps to increase the accuracy of the device but also enables it to do some other things. Below are some of the main applications of 2G/3G/4G/5G/ LPWAN in Tracking Applications.

Fleet Management

In fleet management, different tracking devices can be quite useful. It uses GPS and cellular networks in combination to enhance the outputs. Using the IoT-based tracking devices in fleet management can help to increase visibility. 

Tracking devices consist of different sensors that collect data and send it to the fleet management company via cellular network. This data includes the fleet performance, adherence to laws, driver's behavior, and vehicle's speed. 

Since these devices work autonomously, the fleet manager gets all the information of the vehicles and drivers without any issue. If there is any problem with a specific vehicle or driver, the manager can get timely information and react to the situation. 

Not only fleet manager can track vehicles but the driver can also get benefit from these devices. A tracking device installed on a fleet vehicle helps the driver to navigate properly without any issue. 

Rental Car Management

Just like the fleet management, there are different companies that provides cars on rent. Cellular network based IoT devices can also be very helpful for such companies.

It can help the car owner to monitor the position and health status of the car anytime anywhere. If there is any accident on the way, alerts are uploaded to the platform/APP via cellular connectivity, and the owner gets timely information. Apart from that, these tracking devices also send messages to the respective health and safety departments.  

Cold Chain 

Cellular IoT trackers aren't only limited to Fleet management and rental car services. Apart from these two, sometimes there are certain goods that need to be delivered from one place to another while maintaining a specific temperature.

These include transportation of food and medical supplies. Monitoring of such goods is quite crucial and this is where cellular IoT devices come into action. Cold chain trucks have wired temperature sensors that are connected to different IoT tracking devices such as the JimiIoT.

The tracking device gets all the information about the vehicle and the temperature and sent it in real-time to the concerned department. This way the goods can be transported from one place to another without losing a track of it.

Asset tracking

Last but not least, Asset tracking is another useful service that most GPS based tracking systems provide. Devices such as the JimiIoT features both GPS sensor along with cellular capabilities. Apart from that there are several other sensors such as the IMU (inertial measurement unit) and dash cam that collects different data.

Together these features makes the tracking devices quite in handy for logistic management and asset trackers. It is because the sensors mounted on cars record different types of information and broadcast it timely to the respective organization.

This way fleet managers, assets trackers and logistics managers can keep a track of their assets and ensure the safety and security of diverse assets.

3.How to Choose Cellular IoT GPS Tracking Device for Your Business?

Coverage and Network Type

The first thing to keep in mind while buying a GPS tracker for fleet telematics or any other business application is the coverage.

If you don't have access to their signals, then the devices you use won't help.

Apart from that, you should also keep in mind that your device is using the latest technology. Govts of different countries has planned to shut down the older network generations such as the 2G and 3G.

However, each country has its own plan for the shutdown process. For example, some countries plan to shut down the 3G network first, while some are planning to turn off the 2G first. This can make an annoying situation, mainly when you invest all of your assets in a device that works on the previous generation for your business.

Keeping these issues in mind, the Coverage and availability of the network are some of the main things you need to keep in mind. In addition to this, newly introduced networks tend to consume less battery life, making them highly useful for fleet telematics applications.

If you are not sure about your country network deployment then you can use GSMA to learn about the networks coverage in your country.

4.Final Words

If you are looking for any kind of tracking devices based on any network, Jimi IoT has always a perfect solution for you. Please feel free to contact us if you need any tracking device based on 2G/3G/LTE-M/NB-IoT technology.

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