This white paper from Laird covers the key considerations when choosing between modem vs module for your cellular IoT deployment.
This white paper spotlights on a key question that most engineers will face once they delve into cellular IoT projects: Should you use a module or a modem in your design?
Cellular connectivity is one of the fastest-growing engineering trends in the IoT world, with good reason. The ultra-low power consumption of LTE-M and NB-IoT allows wireless devices in the field to extend battery life to ten years or more – an advantage that will appeal to engineers working on IoT implementation projects where battery life is critical. LTE-M and NB-IoT combine that extraordinary battery life with cost-effective use of wireless data. This makes them far more practical than higher throughput LTE-connected devices of the past that had high operational costs for data usage. Those advantages of LTE-M and NB-IoT are clear, but it is important to note that cellular design can be difficult without the right plan and support.
Before comparing a modem vs. module, I’d like to start by defining the three main types of cellular hardware. The first is a chipset which is the lowest level hardware for integrating cellular into your design. A chipset is a group of integrated circuits that handles fundamental RF functions like frequency control and authentication with the cellular network. Designing from the cellular chipset level is expensive and typically only makes sense when product volumes exceed at least 250,000 so this article will focus primarily on modems and modules. A module incorporates the chipset and adds other features like a processor, memory, a place to supply power, an antenna port, and module level certifications. Some modules will also incorporate additional wireless functionality like 2G fallback and/or GPS. Modules offer a simpler way to connect to the cellular network and make sense when production volumes are above 50,000. Lastly, a modem will incorporate the module and add a range of features like more hardware interfaces, application software, hosted and hostless modes, a SIM card slot, on-board MCU, other wireless protocols like Bluetooth, and end-device certification. Modems provide the most simplified way to add cellular connectivity to a design and is ideal for getting to market quickly.
Read this white paper from Laird to learn whether or not you should choose modem vs module.