Over 50 per cent of cellular IoT radio node unit shipments will be based on new 3GPP IoT standards by 2021, according to new figures released by ABI Research.
The analyst firm said that NB-IoT will consume more than 70 per cent of these shipments. More than one-third of all cellular IoT shipments—a value which is greater than legacy M2M or the current Cat-1 standard.
The 3GPP Release recently finalised three, new cellular LTE-based IoT standards—Cat-M1, NB-IoT, and EC-GSM—that offer a cellular alternative to proprietary unlicensed Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWA) technologies like Ingenu, LoRa, and SIGFOX.
The standards make it easy to configure an LTE network through a simple software upgrade to the existing LTE radio interface. The analyst firm said it expects rapid growth and worldwide deployment of NB-IoT to start in 2017.
Pre-standard NB-IoT pilots and trials are already taking place or are about to, with operators such as AT&T, China Mobile, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica, and Vodafone working with equipment from vendors including Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Nokia, and Qualcomm.
“While some in the industry view the new 3GPP standards as competitors to the current non-3GPP LPWA technologies and predict their demise, we believe that NB-IoT will complement LPWA,” said Nick Marshall, research director at ABI Research. “But it is true that out of the 15 LPWA technologies we profiled, some were designed for use cases that are unsuitable for NB-IoT, such as where downlink data is not required.”
He added that the choice of IoT radio link involves trade-offs between conflicting features, which often involve capacity, licensed versus unlicensed operation, range, reliability, battery life, cost and proprietary versus standards-based schemes.
“NB-IoT stands ready to unlock the full potential of IoT thanks to its high link budget for maximum coverage extension, low cost, and ability to reuse existing LTE networks with carrier grade reliability and security,” said Marshal.
Philipe Guillemette, CTO at Sierra Wireless, told Internet of Business that standardisation, and the strong ecosystem support that results from these efforts, is needed for worldwide interoperability and long-lasting solutions.
“Proprietary solution might be interesting for time and geography ‘contained’ deployment, but when a customer wants to deploy a device that has to work in any country and with a commitment to have a network up and running for the next 15 years, then nothing can beat an open market standard solution with multiple chipsets, carriers and infrastructure vendors,” he said.