Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

LPWA battle will drive connections past one billion by 2023

Steve Rogerson
June 19, 2018
NB-IoT, Cat-M, Sigfox and LoRa’s battle for dominance will drive the number of LPWA network connections globally past one billion by 2023, according to ABI Research.
Cellular and non-cellular LPWA network connections will grow globally at a 53% CAGR until 2023, driven by market growth in smart meters and asset trackers, according to the report from market-research firm ABI.
In 2017, smart meters and asset trackers contributed to almost three-quarters of all LPWA network connections, dominated by non-cellular LPWA network technologies. However, by 2023, non-cellular LPWA will cede its market share dominance to NB-IoT and LTE-M, as cellular LPWA moves to capture over 55% of LPWA connections. Regionally, although western Europe and North America witnessed early deployments of public LPWA networks, the Asia-Pacific, especially China, has been a pivotal market for driving large-scale adoption of NB-IoT and LoRa.
"Asset tracking applications traditionally relied on complex, expensive solutions to track high-value assets," said Adarsh Krishnan, principal analyst at ABI Research. “LPWA network technologies are making it feasible to build simple, small and low-cost footprint devices that can track and monitor everything from sea-freight containers to bicycles, patients to pets, supermarket trolleys to pallets, paving the way for new innovations and business opportunities. Asset tracking, which includes tracking stationary or slow-moving assets, will have the largest share of LPWA connections in 2023, accounting for over 45% worldwide.”
Smart meters deployed by energy and water utilities will be the second largest vertical IoT application in 2023 contributing over one-third of the global LPWA device connections. Early adoption from meter vendors such as Sensus, Itron, Kamstrup, Arad and Holley means that non-cellular LPWA technologies are well positioned to capture two-thirds of the LPWA connections in smart meters by 2023.
In 2017, Sigfox had the largest share of public LPWA connections worldwide benefiting from its first mover advantage in Europe.
"Sigfox has continued to stay a step ahead in public LPWA networks with the roll-out of the Monarch cognitive network service in early 2018," Krishnan said. “The Monarch service enables Sigfox devices to automatically adapt to radio frequency changes allowing for seamless roaming across Sigfox networks.”
Louis Vuitton's Echo travel bag tracker was the first commercial Sigfox device to leverage the Monarch service in more than 100 airports across 26 countries. In contrast, LoRa gained significant market share as a popular connectivity technology for private networks, witnessing over 54% year-on-year growth in 2017.
Private LPWA networks, built to address a single vertical application or an individual enterprise, have been a popular choice for over a decade and accounted for 93% of LPWA connections in 2017. LoRa and other non-cellular LPWA technologies have benefited from the decreasing cost of ICs, low implementation costs and flexibility of private networks that can be tailored to meet specific enterprise IoT applications.
LoRa has witnessed exponential growth in Apac, especially in China where ZTE has deployed China LoRa Application Alliance (CLAA) LoRa networks in 40 Chinese cities and is starting to ramp-up deployment of smart meters, parking sensors, air-quality monitoring sensors and other smart city offerings. However, as the geographic footprint of public networks rapidly expands, cellular and non-cellular public networks will capture over 70% of LPWA connections by 2023, says the report.
Commercial rollouts of 5G and larger than previously forecasted deployments of cellular IoT are focal points in the latest edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report. The forecast for cellular IoT connections has nearly doubled since November 2017. It is now expected to reach an estimated 3.5 billion in 2023, driven by on-going large-scale deployments in China. New massive IoT cellular technologies such as NB-IoT and Cat-M1 are fuelling this growth, giving service providers opportunities to improve efficiencies and enhance customer value.
According to a report from IoT analyst firm Berg Insight, the number of devices managed on third-party connectivity management platforms will grow at a CAGR of 30.3 per cent from 120 million in 2017 to reach 440 million by 2022. This accounted for about 18 per cent of the total installed base of cellular IoT devices in 2017. Berg also says that the global market for IoT device management and application enablement platforms reached US$1.1bn in 2017. Growing at a CAGR of 36.2 per cent, the total market value is expected to reach $4.9bn in 2022.
IoT platforms provide middleware to connect and manage devices and integrate collected data into various applications and services. These platforms are intended to reduce the cost and development time for IoT services by providing standard components that enterprises can build upon.