Lucero added, “As a practical matter, this means a much wider range of less expensive assets will be tracked, and a much greater number of sensors will be deployed in the field.”
ABI’s Shey agrees. “Any of the metering markets will be early movers with this technology but it is the asset tracking market up to and including anything related to the sharing economy that will really add the big numbers to adoption of these two standards.”
Windows for LoRa, Sigfox Narrowing?
In the Sequans CEO’s opinion, the story of cellular IoT when compared to LoRa, Sigfox (non-cellular IoT networks using an unlicensed spectrum) is simple. “LoRa, for example, can be used for private, local applications, such as a campus-wide IoT service,” he explained. “But when it comes to more sophisticated, nation-wide, carrier-grade IoT services, you do need CAT-M1/NB-1 networks. The window of market opportunities for LoRa and Sigfox is narrowing.”
Asked about advantages of M1 and NB1, IHS’ Lucero said, “3GPP global ecosystem supply and support, rapidly expanding global coverage footprint, connectivity using secure, licensed spectrum.”
Machina Research’s Markkanen agreed. “Overall, the quality of service is better in licensed spectrum. Another advantage of going with cellular is that you get the nationwide, multi-country coverage. That can be valuable even if your product isn’t mobile, since you can be pretty certain that if you ship it to several countries it will work.”
Adarsh Krishnan, senior analyst for ABI Research, highlighted two more advantages for cellular IoT. “Claims to be backward compatible and its ability to leverage existing cellular network infrastructure will result in quick roll-out of the technology.” Further, he noted, “GSMA’s Embedded SIM specification provides a standard mechanism for remote provisioning and management of M2M end-devices, [thus] enabling devices operates transnationally.”
Lucero summarized the prospects for proprietary low-Power Wide-Area (LPWA) vendors: “LoRa is immediately available for private network implementation (though Huawei has a solution coming to market for this using NB1 in unlicensed spectrum), for some specific applications. Sigfox may provide the absolute lowest power consumption/longest battery life.”
ABI’s Krishnan cautioned, “Licensed spectrum usage will mean the service will come at a higher cost in comparison to technologies such as LoRa and Sigfox using unlicensed spectrum.”
ABI's Shey believes the biggest challenge for cellular network operators is what to charge for a LTE Cat M1 or NB1 connections. “The Ingenu’s, SigFox’s and other proprietary LPWA vendors overall have a very low network cost structure — basically only focused on thing connections — so can charge very low rates for a connection,” he argued.
“Operator network cost structure is greater as they serve all types of connections on their networks and they already compete quite aggressively on price.”
Despite such cost concerns, Shey said, “Operators have to play in this market, as Cat M1 and NB1 connections could and likely will lead to more profitable and higher revenue opportunities in IoT.”
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times