A detailed new forecast from Mobile Experts predicts LTE-M and NB-IoT device shipments will see massive growth in the near future, overtaking unlicensed LPWA (U-LPWA) device shipments by 2020.
According to the report, shipments of unlicensed LPWA IoT devices will grow at a hefty 58 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next four years. But that, the report indicates, will be dwarfed by the rise of LTE-M and NB-IoT devices, which are expected to grow at a 200 percent CAGR over the same period.
Between 2020 and 2021, shipments across U-LPWA and LTE-M/NB-IoT devices will jump from fewer than 350 million to more than 550 million. Additionally, connectivity module revenue will grow from about $1B in 2016 to about $33B in 2021, with the growth in shipment numbers more than offsetting reductions in device pricing.
Mobile Experts indicates the biggest applications in the IoT explosion will be asset tracking, building automation, and smart meters. But the firm noted different verticals may go for different IoT technology formats.
“Each vertical market has very different drivers – there is no ‘typical IoT device’ and no ‘typical IoT business model,’” Mobile Experts Principal Analyst Joe Madden commented. “The short answer is that only a few of the unlicensed LPWA options can thrive, because the breakeven point on a widespread IoT network is difficult to reach. Out of about 10 unlicensed LPWA options, we expect one to grow as a robust, broad ecosystem and two others to occupy niche opportunities. Some features of formats like Dash7 or Qowisio are useful, and can be absorbed into other technology roadmaps. Others are likely to die.”
The forecast comes as U.S. wireless carriers forge ahead with rollouts of LTE-M technology on their networks. Verizon late last month claimed the first successful Voice-over-LTE call live over-the-air on its LTE Cat-M1 network after launching said network back in March. AT&T followed in May with the debut of its own nationwide LTE-M network in the United States. The carrier said it’s currently working on rolling out the same in Mexico by the end of this year. Sprint, too, is working on IoT network deployments. The carrier last month said LTE Cat-1 technology will be fully up and running across all of its network this summer, and LTE Cat-M deployments are on tap for the middle of next year. More on Sprint’s IoT deployment plans here.
Mobile Experts’ study includes a five-year forecast for LTE-M, NB-IoT, Sigfox, LoRa, Ingenu, Telensa, 802.15.4 (Silver Spring), and other formats. It can be found here.