NB-IoT / LTE-M Issues Boost LoRa / Sigfox Market Share for IoT Networks

According to market advisory firm ABI ResearchLoRa and Sigfox be the main technologies that power LPWA networks connections through 2024. They will take up a significantly larger market share over cellular technologies like NB-IoT and LTE-M. However, in 2026, NB-IoT and LTE-M will start to capture market share with over 60% of the 3.6 billion expected LPWA network connections powered by cellular technologies. Post 2026, LoRa and Sigfox will account for over 80% of the non-cellular LPWA network connections (of the remaining 40%).

In 2018, NB-IoT and LTE-M continued to be plagued by network hardware and connectivity module issues. As telcos and technology vendors address these inherent problems in 2019, other questions are driving enterprises and OEMs to delay deployment of NB-IoT and LTE-M applications, including eSIM/iSIM and the merging of NB-IoT and LTE-M into 5G standards.

LoRa technology adoption in 2018 was dominated by growth in IoT connections from private networks, with 75% Year-on-Year growth. LoRa benefits from a multi-vendor ecosystem of gateway OEMs such as Multi-tech, Kerlink, Cisco, and Tektelic offering a wide array of gateway solutions which reduced network TCO (total cost of ownership) for enterprises. LoRa technology offers enterprise customers the choice of building their own network (private) or using an operator managed public network, or both, based on the IoT use-case. This flexibility in network deployment has been a decisive factor in its early adoption by utilities and manufacturing companies that have traditionally been advocates of private networks. However, even as LoRa’s private network footprint continues to expand, connection growth in public networks will outpace private networks connecting the majority ofLoRa devices by 2026.  As well, ABI Research expects LoRa devices to have the majority share of non-cellular LPWA connections by 2026.

In 2018, Sigfox had the second largest share of public LPWA network connections after NB-IoT. The main drivers of Sigfox connections were growth in home security, smart metering, and asset tracking applications. With an extensive network footprint in Europe, Sigfox had a leading share of LPWA connections in the region and will continue to have a leading share of European non-cellular LPWA connections. Sigfox, with its Monarch service, is currently the only commercially available LPWA network solution that supports the multi-regional tracking of assets. Asset tracking solutions from Sigfox witnessed several successful implementations from companies such as Groupe PSA, Total SA, Guerlain, BPW Group, Luis Vuitton, and Michelin to track assets from containers, trailers, reusable pallets, boxes, and bags. By 2026, Sigfox connections will exceed 430 million end-points with significant growth coming from asset tracking applications.

Regionally, LPWA network technologies gained the most from IoT activity in the APAC region, which accounted for 40% of the global LPWA connections in 2018. China has been a critical market for the early adoption and growth of LoRa and NB-IoT. In 2018, global cellular LPWA network connections were primarily driven by the growth in the APAC region to account for nearly 97% of all NB-IoT connections, although still significantly short of market expectation. Throughout the forecast period, the APAC region will continue to be a pivotal growth market for LPWA network technologies, followed by Europe and North America.