Cellular Connectivity for IoT

Tags: IoT
A picture of Märt Kroodo
Written by
Märt Kroodo
Dropping mobile data prices together with development of eSIMs (eUICC) and soft-SIMs that make switching between mobile carriers dynamic and easy, are creating more and more new business opportunities for emerging Internet of Things (IoT) device manufacturers (OEMs). Devices that have never been connected to internet before can now be connected to a cellular network easily and affordably.

Cellular network (2G, 3G, 4G) industry

Cellular IoT network revenues were forecasted to grow from €8 bn in 2015 to approximately €23 bn in 2020 [1]. The global number of cellular IoT subscribers is estimated to grow at CAGR of 23 % to reach 744 million devices in 2020 according to Berg Insight [1]. Connected cars will be pushing this segment, followed by consumer electronics (e.g. bikes, wearables, cameras), utility (e.g. different water & heating sensors, street lights), transport (e.g. fleet tracking devices), security (e.g. cameras, sensors) and energy (e.g. connected wind turbines) sectors.

East Asia, Western Europe, and North America currently account for around 2/3 of the global cellular IoT devices base. However, until 2020 the relative share of the main regions is expected to decrease slightly as adoption takes off in other parts of the world. Asia in particular will be leading the show. Among individual countries, China is clearly number one in terms of devices.

Technologically, the cellular connectivity landscape is rapidly changing. Current networks are gradually taken out of service to be replaced by more efficient 4G technology. The US market is gradually abandoning 2G and keeping 3G/4G, while Europe is losing 3G and keeping 2G/4G. At the same time, new enhancements are being added to the LTE (4G) standard to better accommodate typical IoT use-cases with large numbers of devices and very low data requirements. With these changes, mobile carriers are planning to release NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) or in some cases LTE-M over the next 2-3 years time. There is a huge potential for these network technologies to become the dominant technology in this low-power WAN (LPWAN) field. Read more about NarrowBand IoT and LTE-M from our blogpost here.

Cellular vs Low-Power WAN (LPWAN)

During recent years we have seen a technological race to meet the demand of the booming IoT sector for longer battery life and cheaper network access. New emerging technologies in wireless networks can be generalized as Low-Power WAN (LPWAN) - stating the wireless wide area network technology specialised in interconnecting devices with low-bandwidth connectivity. Examples of LPWAN include: NarrowBand IoT, LTE-M, Sigfox, LoRaWAN, Zigbee, Z-wave.

Today, cellular connectivity is still the preferred solution because of the present infrastructure and good connectivity capability and quality. Sigfox- and LoRa-like solutions have had some success in certain smaller regions and will probably be partly adopted as a short range technology in the future (e.g. certain sensors or devices in one building or territory connecting to one gateway). But, no broad-based adoption has taken place yet. 1oT sees that by 2020 Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and LTE-M will fill the mentioned gap by offering cheaper network access and battery saving solutions for IoT devices with little data consumption.

Cellular network is still the leading solution for connecting your IoT device to the internet today. If you need to go to market with your solution or device soon, we recommend to stick to cellular connectivity due to reasons below:

  • global coverage (incl rural areas)
  • reliable connection quality
  • well supported by hardware / modems

For more information please contact our team at hello[at]1oT.mobi

[1] Berg Insight. The Global M2M/IoT Communications Market. http://goo.gl/K5ctof

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