Low power wide area IoT technology to lead market by 2022

Licensed cellular LPWA IoT connections will exceed 2G, 3G and 4G by 2022 as the newly standardised NB-IoT and LTE-M specifications reach commercialisation later this year

Low power wide area IoT technology to lead market by 2022

The GSMA is predicting that Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) connections are set to exceed 2G, 3G and 4G. According to new analysis by Machina Research, LPWA will become the leading technology for Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity with 1.4 billion connections by 2022.

These figures underscore how the industry has aligned behind standardised, complementary LPWA technologies such as NB-IoT and LTE-M, accelerating the development of the market, the GSMA says.

This leaves out the existing unlicensed LPWA technologies such as Sigfox, LoRa, Ingenu and Weightless, which are being deployed already in some cases. 3GPP specifications for NB-Iot and LTE-M, which enable 4G (and 2G) spectrum to be efficiently used for narrowband IoT applications, were only completed last year.

The GSMA’s Mobile IoT Initiative, which promotes adoption of LPWA technologies, is currently backed by 67 global mobile operators, device makers, chipset, module and infrastructure companies worldwide.

“In the space of nine short months, the GSMA’s Mobile IoT Initiative has established market standards for LPWA that will play a fundamental role in the growth, development and adoption of the technology,” said Alex Sinclair, chief technology officer, GSMA.

“There are already several mobile operators around the world running mobile IoT pilots, and this year, we’ll see commercial launches across a range of sectors, providing complete IoT connectivity and delivering service to billions of new devices.”

LPWA networks are an emerging, high-growth area of the IoT, designed to support M2M applications that have low data rates, require long battery lives and operate unattended for long periods of time, often in remote locations.

They will be used for a wide variety of applications such as industrial asset tracking, safety monitoring, water and gas metering, smart grids, city parking, vending machines and city lighting.

“It is clear that LPWA technologies will revolutionise the Internet of Things, combining the ability to provide out-of-the-box connectivity with extremely long battery life. These qualities make LPWA technologies a perfect match for many IoT applications.

“The widespread availability of LPWA will catalyse the whole IoT ecosystem, supporting new use cases, enabling the increased sophistication and reach of many existing use cases, and accelerating adoption overall,” said Jim Morrish, founder and chief research officer of Machina Research.

Licensed LPWA networks complement and extend conventional wide area networks, allowing operators to optimise their existing high-quality mobile network infrastructure through an upgrade which makes use of 2G and 4G cellular technologies, as well as local area networks such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee.

These licensed standards allow operators to optimise their existing mobile network infrastructure through an upgrade to LTE-M for LTE networks, while NB-IoT can use both 2G and 4G spectrum. They are designed to cover all use cases, ensuring customer choice and helping the IoT market to flourish.

The GSMA Mobile IoT initiative is currently supporting the industry in multiple global pilots, with full commercial solutions expected in market later this year.


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