Top ten mobile operators account for 76 percent of cellular IoT connections
Top ten mobile operators account for 76 percent of cellular IoT connections

Top ten mobile operators account for 76 percent of cellular IoT connections

New research from Berg Insight ranks global mobile operators by number of cellular IoT connections and reveals robust growth among Chinese providers.

Which global mobile operator accounted for the largest number of cellular IoT connections in the first half of 2017?

According to a new report from market research firm Berg Insight, it was China Mobile, which notched up 150 million IoT connections during the period. In fact, estimates Berg Insight analyst Tobias Ryberg, early signs suggest China Mobile has since gone from strength to strength, to reach 200 million cellular IoT connections by the end of 2017.

“The Chinese mobile operators achieve tremendous volume growth in 2017,” he notes, “driven by accelerating uptake of cellular IoT in the domestic market.”

This tallies with a conversation that Internet of Business had towards the end of last year with Maciej Kranz, vice president of strategic innovation at networking giant Cisco, in which Kranz predicted that China would solidify its spot as a top IoT innovator and adopter in 2018. “We need to recognize that, just as China has emerged as a leader in mobility and payment technologies, it’s also set to emerge as a leader in IoT, too,” he said.

In short, government investment in IoT, coupled with a huge urban population and a giant manufacturing base makes China fertile ground for smart, connected technologies.

Read more: Worldwide IoT cellular connections to reach 2.4 billion by 2025

Ranked by cellular IoT connections

It’s no surprise that first, third and fifth place on Berg Insight’s ranking of mobile operators by IoT connections go to China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom.

In total, the top ten companies account for more than three out of four (76 percent) of global cellular IoT connections in 1H2017. They are:

  1. China Mobile – 150m connections
  2. Vodafone – 59m
  3. China Unicom  – 50m
  4. AT&T – 36m
  5. China Telecom – 28m
  6. Deutsche Telecom – c. 15-20m
  7. Softbank/Sprint – c. 15-20m
  8. Verizon – c. 15-20m
  9. Telefonica – c. 15-20m
  10. Telenor – c. 12m

According to Ryberg, Vodafone and AT&T are consolidating their positions as regional market leaders in Europe and North America respectively, “serving multinational clients on a global basis.” In 2017, he notes, Vodafone extended its lead in the European market but competitors are gaining momentum, “and the expanding market has room for multiple players.”

Read more: China Mobile invests $300m in IoT push

Who’s making money?

When it comes to revenues from cellular IoT connections, however, the global picture is rather different, with Western mobile operators ahead of their Chinese counterparts. Berg Insight expects that at least three operator groups – AT&T, Verizon and Vodafone – will generate more than $1 billion in revenues from IoT in 2018.

“The main strategy for growing IoT revenues is vertical plays in major application areas,” says Ryberg. “Verizon, Vodafone and others have made significant acquisitions in the connected vehicle space to extend their product portfolios. AT&T and Deutsche Telekom develop dedicated practices for smart cities and many operators seek to play leading roles in national projects in areas like smart metering and electronic road charging.”

These findings come from the 3rd Edition of Berg Insight’s annual report, The Global M2M/IoT Communications Market.

Read more: Vodafone IoT Barometer: Large global IoT projects doubled last year