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Will non-cellular IoT technologies dominate the connectivity landscape?

TecFutures asked IoT CSPs about which technologies they considered the most important for enterprise connectivity. Across MNOs and MVNOs, we see a consistent picture for connectivity technology demand. The primary observation is that there is no one single technology that IoT CSPs believe will dominate over the next 12 to 24 months. It is more a case that enterprises will be seeking a blended solution to their connectivity requirements across licensed and unlicensed technologies.


The results from our survey demonstrate the importance of LoraWan and SigFox in the overall enterprise IoT connectivity technology mix. Both appear in the top three when ranked for importance by CSPs. LoraWan has an average importance of 8.9/10 and is particularly important to those CSPs active in MENA and Sub-Saharan Africa.


Interestingly, those CSPs managing smaller bases of IoT connections rank it higher. SigFox has a higher importance in Europe and again for smaller base sizes. Across both of these technologies, there is little difference in importance between MNOs and MVNOs.


Wi-Fi also has a key role to play to play appearing as the second most important

connectivity technology with a ranking of 8.8/10. It is the most important technology in North America, MENA and Sub-Saharan Africa and for those CSPs managing between 2m and 5m IoT connections.


Turning our attention to 5G, it ranks fourth in importance and this clearly demonstrates the growing relevance and focus for this cellular connectivity technology. It is the most important connectivity technology in Northern and Western Europe with North America being another key 5G market. Once again, those managing the largest base of connections rate it higher with score of 9/10 which could be a reflection that it is of most interest to larger (and earlier adopting) enterprises. We may well be seeing that enterprises are leapfrogging 4G technologies in favour of 5G.


Satellite IoT is a relatively new contender in the IoT connectivity landscape yet already it has a rating of 8.2/10. There is little difference in importance by region with a slightly higher importance attached to satellite in North America and MENA. It is more important for those with smaller numbers of connections and importance reduces with the number of connections managed.


At the other extreme, there appears to be diminishing demand for 2G and 3G technologies, although this is will be dependent on 2G and 3G switch-off as well as the complexity of applications under consideration. We recognise that there are still many enterprise applications using relatively simple IoT applications on 2G and 3G networks and there is potentially a significant cost and complexity in moving to new cellular connectivity technologies. By region, both these technologies have a higher than average in importance in Asia Pacific and Northern and Western Europe. This could well reflect the legacy nature of connectivity in these regions.


In conclusion, it is very apparent that there is no one-size-fits-all to IoT connectivity technologies and CSPs need to offer a range of technologies to suit enterprise use cases and whether they are existing users or new adopters. Clearly, over time, there will be a more concerted focus on newer technologies and we may well see the emergence of winners and losers in the IoT connectivity space.


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