Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

China pushes worldwide cellular IoT connections beyond one billion

Steve Rogerson
May 21, 2019
Cellular IoT connections exceed one billion worldwide spurred by growth in China, according to IoT analyst firm Berg Insight.
The company estimates that the global number of cellular IoT subscribers increased by 70 per cent during 2018 to reach 1.2 billion. Growth was driven by high adoption in China, which accounted for 63 per cent of the global installed base. By 2023, Berg projects that there will be nine billion IoT devices connected to cellular networks worldwide.
“China is deploying cellular IoT technology at a monumental scale,” said Tobias Ryberg, principal analyst and author of the report. “According to data from the Chinese mobile operators, the installed base in the country grew by 124 per cent year-on-year to reach 767 million at the end of 2018. The country has now surpassed Europe and North America in terms of penetration rate with 54.7 IoT connections per 100 inhabitants.”
The Chinese government is actively driving adoption as a tool for achieving domestic and economic policy goals, at the same time as the private sector implements IoT technology to improve efficiency and drive innovation.
Berg Insight believes the role of the government is the main explanation for why China is ahead of the rest of the world in the adoption of IoT. As with other advanced economies, the country has widespread adoption of connected cars, fleet management, smart metering, asset monitoring and other traditional applications for cellular IoT. It has also given rise to new consumer services enabled by connectivity such as bike sharing.
The most distinctive characteristic of the Chinese IoT market is, however, the way the government is systematically using new technology to implement its vision for urban life in the 21st century.
In the report, Berg also analyses the IoT business KPIs released by mobile operators in different parts of the world and found significant regional differences. The monthly ARPU for cellular IoT connectivity services in China was only €0.22, compared with €0.70 in Europe.
Global revenues from cellular IoT connectivity services increased 19 per cent in 2018 to reach €6.7bn. The ten largest players had a combined revenue share of around 80 per cent.