The use of cellular devices beyond traditional cell phones has exploded in recent years. These applications are more commonly known as the Internet of things (IOT). All cellular devices have one thing in common and that is the need for a data plan. However, cellular devices use different cellular technology and are specific to carriers and geographical regions. Picking the right plan is more than picking the amount of voice/data needed but also based on the cellular technology and geographical region that it will be used.
First we need to explain some cellular terms such as 2G, 3G and 4G and why should we care. The simple answer is that as the technology comes out it is faster and can handle more data than the previous version. 2G was the first cellular technology to incorporate digital and text and is being phased out. 3G was an advancement that added data. The first smart phones used 3G. 4G is an improvement over 3G with added functionally such as Voice over IP (VOIP). 4G is the future direction of cellular. Many IoT applications run on 2G and 3G networks since the data requirements are lower.
Now to make it even more confusing, the different US carriers have adapted different cellular technologies to achieve 2G and 3G service. The main cellular carriers use CDMA (Alltel, Sprint, U.S. Cellular and Verizon), GSM (AT&T, T-Mobile) and iDEN (Nextel). For global service, it is much easier and most use HSPA technology which has become the standard. The transition to 4G LTE is making it easier to pick a plan since the US and international carriers are adopting this technology as the standard. The technology used is different in the US versus the rest of the world. US carriers use GSM/EDGE and International carriers use UMTS/HSPA.
Let’s look at two examples from Digi International’s Transport® cellular router families. The older Transport® families such as the WR21 used 2G/3G technology of CDMA, GSM and HSPA+. There you had specific devices for Verizon, AT&T and International use. As the new Transport® families came out they used 4G LTE technology. There you had devices for multicarrier US and International. For example, in the WR family part number WR41-L500-NE1-SU is for multicarrier in the US and the WR41-L100-NE1-SW is for international use.
Once you figured out the device technology and geographical region, you can then look at the amount of data that you will need. All carriers have different plans, options and price points available. Just pick the one that is right for your application.
Finding the right cellular plan does not need to be difficult or confusing. Start by looking at your cellular device and consider these three things: the cellular technology used, geographical region and the amount of data that you need. Once these are determined picking the right plan is easy.