Low power cellular IoT set to soar


Powerful 4- and 5-G networks will enable cellular IoT to power 85 percent of worldwide IoT connections by 2023, according to research figures from telecoms giant, Ericsson

By now many will have heard about cellular IoT and how it enables a remarkable variety of physical objects to connect to the Internet by piggybacking the established mobile networks that allow your smartphone to act ‘smart’. But what these people may not know is just how rapidly this low power wide area network (LPWAN) technology is anticipated to grow, how dominant it might prove in the Internet of Things (IoT) space, and how advantageous its widespread deployment could be for millions of industrial and consumer applications.

No longer shackled by the power limitations of the past, the cellular-enabled IoT devices of today—supported by built-in wireless sensors and complemented by ultra-low power wireless connectivity—can transfer useful data over impressive distances. Factor in the emergence of the significantly faster and stronger 5G global cellular networks, which provide even greater capacity and bandwidth, and we begin to see how cellular IoT devices will thrive on a worldwide scale. 

But just how big will cellular IoT get? The latest research by global leader in telecoms infrastructure, Ericsson, suggests the number of cellular IoT connections will grow from 700 million in 2017 to an astonishing 3.5 billion by 2023, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30 percent. And in as little as five years, cellular IoT will power approximately 85 percent of IoT connections worldwide, according to the telecoms giant’s highly regarded Ericsson Mobility Report (June 2018).

This positive forecast is far from isolated. A separate report by the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) indicates 163 network operators are actively investing in cellular IoT technology, of which 78 have already deployed or commercially launched networks. Not only has the welcome arrival of new cellular IoT technologies—including the latest LTE Cat-M1 (LTE-M) and Narrowband (NB)-IoT standards (supporting LPWANs via the mature LTE 4G global cellular network)—boosted the overall growth forecasts for cellular IoT connections, it has made an immediate and considerable impact on the burgeoning cellular IoT market.

Cellular IoT advantages
If we acknowledge that cellular IoT is getting bigger, it’s worth exploring how cellular IoT makes things (tangibly) better. Firstly, existing cellular network infrastructure is reliable, secure, and has the capacity to support IoT services without compromising smartphone traffic – thus ensuring cellular IoT requires no further support or resources to expand. Moreover, modern cellular IoT offers broader network coverage and enhanced indoor penetration without IoT devices being forced to sacrifice scarce battery power. Cellular IoT also enables the use of physically smaller modules in IoT devices, which is likely to encourage further deployment of the technology for the countless IoT applications that rely on a compact solution.

A myriad of cellular IoT applications are currently deployed to solve real-world challenges across industries including manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, transport, and logistics, as well as provide connectivity to and between some of the things that surround us on a daily basis, such as streetlights, and an array of smart consumer products and appliances. Looking ahead, the rise of 5G combined with the low latency data-gathering and information-sharing potential of cellular IoT may well enhance our lives with immersive augmented reality (AR) technology, self-driving cars, remote health monitoring and a whole lot more we haven’t yet considered.

Can the upward trend of cellular IoT dominance be expected to continue for the foreseeable future? The short answer is, “absolutely”. Despite the presence of competing open-standard based LPWANs like LoRa and SigFox, cellular IoT will see huge global adoption throughout the next decade. And the technology’s forecast ubiquity looks set to underpin a prosperous IoT landscape.

Cellular IoT advantages

If we acknowledge that cellular IoT is getting bigger, it’s worth exploring how cellular IoT makes things (tangibly) better.