Wireless communication technology is a key component of most Internet of Things (IoT) projects. Choosing the best-fit solution can be challenging, due to the use of competing technologies. Mobile network service providers prefer open standards-based technology. So, that's a key market driver.
ABI Research forecasts that although proprietary Low-Power Wide-Area Networks (LPWANs) using LoRa, RPMA, and SIGFOX dominate today, the imminent commercialization of cellular LPWANs using the LTE Cat-M1, NB-IoT, and EC-GSM-IoT technologies will quickly rival the proprietary footprint.
Cellular LPWANs promise wide support from a large ecosystem, interoperability among vendors and mobile network operators, and the ability for existing cellular networks to rapidly scale up through a straightforward software upgrade with no new spectrum or hardware required.
Market Development of IoT Infrastructure
Telecom service providers throughout North America, Western Europe, and the Asia Pacific regions will lead the deployment of LPWANs for IoT.
"The window of opportunity for proprietary LPWA schemes to gain market share before the cellular juggernaut hits is drastically narrowing," said Nick Marshall, research director at ABI Research.
According to the ABI assessment, while LoRa, RPMA, and SIGFOX technologies account for almost three quarters of LPWANs today, there is significant traction in mobile network operator trials and planning for cellular LPWAN rollout.
Taking an 'LTE Cat-M1 first' approach, the U.S. region is on track to offer commercial networks as early as the forth quarter of 2016. Other regions will lead with an 'NB-IoT first' tactic, likely becoming available sometime in 2017.
Meanwhile, U.S. mobile network operators are adopting LTE Cat-M1 first since it's compliant with the widest array of IoT use cases, and these may demand higher data rates than NB-IoT can provide.
Network operators plan to subsequently update their networks to NB-IoT if required at a later date. In other regions, NB-IoT is preferred for its promise of lower cost end nodes and longer battery life.
Outlook for M2M Technology Deployements
Sunsets offer companies that rely on machine-to-machine (M2M) an opportunity to substitute licensed M2M technologies with proprietary LPWA technologies. To ensure continuity of their businesses, these companies may decide to use proprietary LPWANs immediately when faced with a network sunset and avoid the wait for commercial scale on cellular networks.
"World 2G and 3G cellular network connection sunsets are now accelerating, with double digit declines since 2015," concludes Marshall. "Although we can count on one hand the number of networks sunsetting in 2016, this number will multiply at least five times over by 2025."