Mobile IoT networks: Why telecom operators are staying away

Majority of global telecom operators are not showing interest in making investment in the licensed Mobile IoT networks, such as NB-IoT and LTE-M.

24 mobile operators have commercially launched 48 Mobile IoT networks worldwide across both NB-IoT and LTE-M technologies. GSMA, which released this statistics, did not reveal the investment in Mobile IoT networks and return on the investment.
IoT Device management marketGSMA Intelligence forecasts there will be 3.1 billion cellular IoT connections, including 1.8 billion licensed LPWA connections by 2025.

Future of Mobile IoT

NB-IoT and LTE-M, according to GSMA, will play in the 5G future and, in particular, the development of massive IoT. Massive IoT, one of three principle 5G use cases, will enable developments such as smart cities and industrial automation.

Mobile operators such as AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, Orange and Vodafone are the selective ones focusing on NB-IoT and LTE-M as part of their 5G strategy.

“Licensed NB-IoT and LTE-M networks are already delivering trusted connectivity today to millions of devices around the world, and these networks will continue to be a fundamental component of our 5G future ushering in an era of massive IoT,” Alex Sinclair, chief technology officer of GSMA.

Shipments of NB-IoT devices will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 41.8 percent from 106.9 million units in 2018 to 613.2 million units in 2023 according to analyst firm Berg Insight.

Strong growth is fuelled by fast-growing demand in China where NB-IoT is set to replace 2G in mass-market applications.

“NB-IoT has been designated as China’s preferred LPWA technology and plays a key role in the national policies,” Tobias Ryberg, senior analyst and author of the report, said.

Global telecoms in IoT space

Vodafone will roll out commercial services across all its networks until 2020. Vodafone had live NB-IoT services in Italy, Spain, Ireland and the Netherlands. Vodafone will expand NB-IoT to Germany, the UK and Czechia.

“Vodafone pioneered the development of NB-IoT and already has networks in nine countries. NB-IoT, the first 5G internet of things network, will be the foundation for a society where people and businesses are far more connected to,” Luke Ibbetson, head of R&D for Vodafone Group, said.

Deutsche Telekom launched in Germany and the Netherlands in Q2-2017 and plans to extend coverage to an additional six European countries.

“LPWA technologies such as NB-IoT have been paving the way for 5G and will be an important part of the 5G technologies – with its virtualised core networks implemented at Deutsche Telekom, it is reality today for us,” said Ingo Hofacker, SVP, IOT, Deutsche Telekom.

Other European operators with live NB-IoT services in early 2018 included Orange, TIM and Telia Company.

Telefonica will start deployments in Europe later this year.

T-Mobile USA switched on NB-IoT services in Las Vegas in February this year and Verizon has confirmed plans to build a nationwide network covering 2.56 million square miles by the year-end.

Australia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the UAE are other examples of countries where rollouts are already underway.

“With the coming rollout of 5G connectivity, the age of the Internet of Things is beginning to unfold,” Ken Kennedy, president of technology and product, CSG, said in its latest survey on IoT technology.

US-based telecom operator AT&T said Low-Power Wide-Area networks hold the key to global deployment of IoT devices and applications that will only grow with 5G.

Chris Penrose, president, Internet of Things Solutions, AT&T, said: “Our investment in Massive IoT in the U.S. and Mexico marks another step forward on our path to 5G with 3GPP standardised technology and licensed spectrum.”

ABI Research forecasts that IoT device management services will be a necessary component of any significant IoT solution moving forward, with 70 percent of revenues being generated within the industrial, automotive, and telematics verticals.

Device management services, which include device provisioning, software and firmware updates, and device monitoring, will generate revenues of $20.5 billion by 2023, said Ryan Harbison, research analyst at ABI Research.

Berg Insight forecasts that yearly shipments of LTE-M devices will reach 185.3 million units in 2023. But investment in Mobile IoT network is growing slowly. Is the lack of strong use cases affecting the Mobile IoT segment?

Baburajan K