IoT Network Protocols

The Internet of Things (IoT) is about the network of sensor devices to the web in real-time. IoT devices communicate with each other over the network, so certain standards and rules need to be set to determine how data is exchanged. These rules are called IoT Network Protocols. Today, a wide variety of IoT devices are available, and therefore different protocols have been designed.

Depending on the IoT application’s functionality, its workflow or architecture varies. Basic architecture involves four layers, i.e., the Sensing layer, Network layer, Data processing layer, and Application layer.

The Sensing layer contains all the hardware, like sensors, actuators, chips, etc., that collect information. This layer is connected to the successive layer, which is the network layer, through protocols. The Network layer allows communications among devices using network protocols like cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, etc. The data collected by IoT devices is processed in the Data processing layer using technologies like data analytics and machine learning algorithms. This processed data can be displayed to the user through web portals, apps, or interfaces provided by the application layer. Users can directly interact and visualize the data obtained from IoT devices through these interfaces.

As IoT devices have very few components-little batteries and sensors, there is a small amount of power available. Hence, it is tough to design protocols for IoT. Also, we need to perform everything (construct topological structures, do address assignments, etc.) on wireless.

IoT Protocols Should also Satisfy These Requirements

  • Allow communication among various devices simultaneously.

  • IoT is being used in critical areas like health, industries, home surveillance, etc. hence communication security needs to be ensured.

  • Transport data efficiently.

  • IoT devices can be added or removed from the IoT network. Hence protocols must provide scalability.

There are many such protocols developed for IoT, then how to choose one??

One way to decide which protocol to use is to consider the environment for which these protocols are designed. Some are designed for small ranges; some are for wide ranges, high data rates, low data rates, etc. They vary based on power consumption, range, cost, data rate, etc.

Short Range Communication, Low Data Rate, Low Power


Bluetooth works in a frequency range of 2.4GHz. It covers a range of 10m to 100m, and its data rate goes up to 1MBPS. It supports two network topologies – point-to-point and mesh. It is suitable to send a small amount of data to personal devices like speakers, earphones, smart watches, smart shoes, etc. This protocol can also be used for Smart Homes, including Alarms, HVAC, lighting, etc.


This is based on the IEEE802.15.4 standard. Its frequency range is the same as that of Bluetooth, which is 2.4GHz. Its range is up to 100 meters, and the data rate is a maximum of 250KBPS. Zigbee protocol can transmit small amounts of data within a short range. This can be used in systems that require high authentication and robustness. It supports star topology, mesh topology, and cluster tree topology. Major applications observed are sensing device health in industries, smart homes, etc.,


PAN stands for Personal Area Network, and 6LoWPAN refers to IPV6 Low Power PAN. It works in a frequency ranging from 900 to 2400MHz. The data rate is 250KBPS, supporting two network topologies - star and mesh.

Short Range Communication, High Data Rate

WirelessLAN - Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi has high bandwidth and allows a data rate of 54MBPS and goes up to 600MBPS. Covers a range of 50m in the local area where providing private antennas goes to 30 km. IoT devices can be easily connected using Wi-Fi and share a large amount of data. This protocol is used in smart homes, smart cities, offices, etc

Long Range Communication, High Data Rate, Low power


This stands for Long Range Wide Area Network. Its range is approximately 2.5km and can go up to 15km. The data rate is very low, which is 03, and KBPS and goes up to a maximum of 50KBPS. It can support many connected devices and is used in applications like Smart City, Supply Chain Management, etc.


LTE-M stands for Long Term Evolution for Machines. This is a type of LPWAN – Low Power Wide Area Network. This is used along with cellular networks to provide security. LTE-M works in a frequency range of 1.4MHz-5MHz, and the data rate can go up to 4MBPS.

Long Range, Low Data Rate, Low Power Consumption


Sigfox is used when wide area coverage is required with minimum power consumption. It aims at connecting billions of IoT devices. This protocol’s frequency range is 900MHZ, covering a range of 3km to 50km. The maximum data rate is very low, which is 1KBPS.

Long Range, Low Data Rate, High Power Consumption


This is also known as a mobile network. Cellular networks are 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G. It Has frequency ranges – 900MHz, 1.8/1.9/2.1 GHz. The range is approximately 35km and goes up to 200km. The average data rate is 35KBPS – 170KBPS. Cellular networks consume high power. This protocol is not used for most IoT devices due to frequency and security issues. It can be used with IoT applications like connected cars.