Licensed Low Power IoT Technologies to Surpass Unlicensed LPWA Connections by 2025

According to Strategy Analytics, the number of licensed low power LPWA connections will grow to just short of 900 Million connections by 2025, significantly outstripping unlicensed LPWA connections over the same period, despite a slow start outside China. The details can be seen in a new report published by Strategy Analytics called “IoT Licensed Low Power Cellular Connections by Vertical”.

Many IoT applications do not require high bandwidth or ultra-low latency functionality. For this reason, 2G technologies still remain effective for a number of IoT applications. As the world pivots to 5G, low power solutions are also evolving to meet the needs of IoT. 4G LTE has evolved to support Cat 0 and Cat 1, but in 3GPP Release 13 standard, defined in 2016/2017, specific versions of LTE were defined that allowed for secure, low power use of LTE for IoT applications, namely LTE M and Narrowband IoT (NB‑IoT).

According to Andrew Brown, Executive Director of Enterprise and IoT Research at Strategy Analytics, there are now over 92 NB IoT networks and over 36 LTE M networks and the number is growing all the time, with multiple service providers and module OEMs supporting both technologies. With roaming issues effectively being resolved around NB IoT, the future appears positive.

While NB-IoT has emerged as the dominant technology, driven by huge infrastructure projects in China, strong in-building coverage, very low cost and long battery life, LTE-M will continue to play an important role in applications with a significant downlink requirements and/or voice support, as well as FOTA (Firmware over the air) support. 

As 2G and 3G networks are phased out, licensed low power technologies operating on 4G and 5G networks will be pivotal in IoT deployments. NB-IoT and Cat-M will be covered by 5G and will naturally become the technology of choice for mMTC (Massive Machine-type Communications) in 5G. 5G NR (New Radio) is designed to support diverse deployment models. It is likely that from the start of 5G NR, the 3GPP will allow LTE M and NB IoT transmissions to be placed directly into the 5G NR frequency band. 

This simply requires core network RAN support. With cellular networks already in place, they believe that the opportunity for these technologies are extremely viable in the long term.

Click here to read to the full report.