While traditional cellular networks have dominated the market for M2M connectivity, this is about to change, according to Beecham Research in its report published today: ‘Low Power Wide Area Networks for IoT Applications Market Report and Forecast’. Offering low power, low cost and long range, LPWANs (Low Power Wide Area Networks) enable a far wider range of M2M and IoT applications currently constrained by budgets and distance from a power source. From a standing start in 2015, Beecham Research expects that by 2020 LPWANs will provide 26% of the total IoT connectivity market with 345 million connections, marking an end to the near monopoly of traditional cellular networks for machine connectivity.
“LPWANs represent the most dynamic and potentially game changing development in the M2M/IoT market,” says David Parker, senior analyst at Beecham Research and the author of the report. “The lower speeds of LPWANs are the trade-off for longer range, offering networks optimised for machine connectivity with much lower deployment costs than traditional cellular networks. LPWANs will both compete and collaborate with cellular and other network technologies to stimulate market growth with more connectivity options for end-users.“
The report also warns of the hype around ‘big data’ applications where everything is discussed in terms of the 3Vs – velocity, volume and variety. “Our look at LPWANs highlighted that there are many applications that are not big data and not necessarily real-time, interactive or immersive,” said Robin Duke-Woolley (pictured), CEO of Beecham Research. “So, from a connectivity point of view, the market will move towards 4G-5G for satisfying big data IoT, while on the other side LPWANs and equivalent networks will address the low data IoT requirement.”
The Beecham Research report investigates the increasing plethora of LPWAN technologies including the likes of Sigfox and companies in the LoRa Alliance, which are currently leading the LPWAN field in terms of network deployment, industry support, investment and customers. Most of these LPWAN solutions use the ISM (Industrial Scientific and Medical) bands better known for use by short range wireless technologies like Zigbee, Wifi and 6LoWPAN. However, recent advances have enabled LPWANs to be established using the ISM bands over longer distances, up to 50km in rural areas and 5-10km in urban areas.
Another LPWAN technology with long range, low power characteristics is known as TV White Spaces (TVWS), which uses the gaps in between VHF/UHF parts of the spectrum, previously used for TV broadcasting. TVWS promises connectivity over distances of 10Km and with superior in-building penetration when compared to 3G or 4G.
“New entrants working in the ISM and TVWS bands are promoting overall market growth and providing a spur to action within the GSMA world,” said Parker. “Developing standards for the cellular operating community is a slower process but the emergence of LTE-M and Narrowband IoT (NB-IOT) will allow cellular operators to compete with these new entrants on a level playing field of range, battery life and costs.” The report examines latest developments in this area.
While the market is fast moving, Beecham Research’s Duke-Woolley also raises concerns about over optimistic forecasts: “We have seen some staggering predictions of the number of connected devices in the next five or ten years that are simply unrealistic. The risk is that new and established companies build business plans based on these forecasts and run out of funding before they have a chance to become established and see their return on investment. Beecham Research’s main business is providing client-specific support for business plan development where providing realistic forecasts is essential.”
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