What Is Involved in Network Selection?

Network selection means exactly what it means: it’s the process of choosing the network to connect to by the device. Network selection implies the specific requirements of the IoT application and appropriate network technology that aligns with factors like range, data rate, power consumption, scalability, and cost.  

Network Technologies 

In IoT, network selection goes beyond cellular connectivity, covering: 

  • Cellular (2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G) 

  • Wi-Fi Bluetooth 

  • Zigbee 

  • LoRaWAN 

  • NB-IoT 

Coverage and Power 

Depending on the type of location, e.g., hard to reach environments, urban areas, indoor environment, there is a necessity to consider the following: factors of network infrastructure availability, signal strength, and penetration abilities. In addition, network selection deals with the power consumption (for instance, Nb-IoT or Zigbee) characteristics peculiar for specific network and choosing the one that minimizes energy usage within a desired connectivity quality.  

Data Volume, Bandwidth, and Security 

With generation of diverse data, from small sensor readings to large-scale data transfers, assessment of data requirements of the IoT devices and choosing a network that can handle the expected data volume and provide the necessary bandwidth is essential. For example, applications requiring real-time data transmission may prefer cellular networks with higher bandwidth capabilities. IoT devices deal with sensitive data which means security features within various networks, such as encryption, authentication, and secure data transmission protocols should be considered.  

Scalability 

Network selection should entail the scalability of the chosen network technology to ensure it can deal with the increasing number of IoT devices in this network. At the same time, pricing models, data plans, and associated expenses like subscription fees or data usage charges should be also taken into account. Sometimes, it’s beneficial to combine multiple network technologies - to select the most suitable network based on factors like location, availability, or cost.  

Automatic Network Selection 

Usually, modems offer two modes for network selection: automatic and manual. Automatic mode, used in SIM cards, is advised for seamless operation. Automatic network selection refers to the process in which an IoT device selects and connects to a network without manual operations. The device uses predefined algorithms to choose the most suitable network available based on factors such as signal strength, quality, security, and cost. This approach is commonly used in scenarios where IoT devices need to reach different networks based on their location, availability, or specific requirements. 

Manual Network Selection 

This selection entails a user in the process of choosing and configuring the network to which the IoT hardware will connect. This approach gives users control over network preferences and allows them to specify the network parameters directly. It is usually utilized in scenarios where specific networks are preferred, or there are security aspects where explicit user approval for connecting to a network is necessary.