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The race is on to a billion LPWA connected devices

Metering, streetlight monitoring and parking management make up 80 per cent of the announced NB-IoT networks to date

One in four LPWA network operators are planning or developing NB-IoT networks
One in four LPWA network operators are planning or developing NB-IoT networks

Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) has reached critical mass with announced deployment plans growing exponentially and is predicted to make up over half of the 1.3 billion LPWA connections worldwide by 2025.


According to the report by global IoT research firm ON World, NB-IoT has featured in two fifths of the LPWA developments over the last two years and it reveals the pace of activity has accelerated over the past 12 months. At the current rate of activity, the level will have increased by 18 times between 2016 and 2018.


“NB-IoT is now the global wide area IoT network of choice,” said Mareca Hatler, director of research, ON World. “The pace of development has skyrocketed over the past year and the turning point was in February when Verizon announced it will build a nation-wide NB-IoT network by the end of 2018.”


Last year, the NB-IoT market was driven by a handful of operators, primarily in Asia and Europe. Today, US operators Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile are fast-tracking their NB-IoT development, the report states.


Despite the early lead by unlicensed low power wide area (LPWA) networking technologies such as LoRa and Sigfox, the NB-IoT ecosystem is rapidly over taking them.


Dual mode options have driven much of the initial NB-IoT market where both LTE-M, a higher bandwidth option that support voice and mobility and NB-IoT protocols are integrated into the same chipset.


Lower chip costs, better performance and a roadmap that includes over-the air-updates, voice and mobility will ensure that NB-IoT overtakes LTE-M in the near term and Sigfox and LoRa over the next five years.


Metering, streetlight monitoring and parking management make up 80 per cent of the announced NB-IoT applications to date. However, the number of NB-IoT applications is growing rapidly including solutions for traffic and waste management, healthcare, smart buildings, retail and wearables such as health monitors and smartwatches that will increasingly compete with short range wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and Zigbee.


ON World’s analysis of nearly 100 LPWA network operators found that one in four are planning/developing NB-IoT networks including most of the top tier mobile operators. More than half of the NB-IoT network operators today are from the Asia Pacific region.


In addition to the early NB-IoT proponents Deutsche Telecom and Vodafone, there are dozens of other NB-IoT network operators today with varying stages of network roll outs. A few examples include China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, KDDI, NTT Docomo, Singtel, SoftBank, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telia, Telkomsel and Verizon.


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