Several announcements and reports coinciding with the CES show in Las Vegas have thrown the spotlight on the intensifying competition between cellular and low powered wide area network technologies for the IoT market.
- Announcement for Ericsson of “the ICT industry’s first complete cellular low-power wide-area offering, with backing from leading operator AT&T.”
- A white paper from Ericsson summarising the various cellular technology developments designed to cater for IoT requirements.
- A prediction from Analysys Mason that the contest for worldwide dominance in will be confined to the cellular technology Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and LoRaWAN.
- Publication by Mobile Experts of what it claims is “the most comprehensive analysis of wireless IoT ever published, with very detailed technical analysis and cost analysis to identify which standards and applications will succeed.”
Analysys Mason’s predictions will be music to the ears of Ericsson which announced, and demonstrated, at CES 2016, version 17A of its cellular network software saying it “addresses a comprehensive range of Internet of Things (IoT) applications by supporting millions of IoT device connections per cell site.”
The new software adds support for NB-IoT to existing LTE network infrastructure enabling, according to Ericsson, “fast rollout of reliable, secure mobile connectivity with low total cost of ownership.” It also supports power-saving functionality for NB-IoT and LTE-M, allowing for more than 10-year device battery lifetime, Ericsson claims.
NB-IoT: 200,000 connections per carrier
According to Ericsson, NB-IoT scales LTE to connect a much wider variety of use cases and has flexible deployment options, using a dedicated carrier (200kHz) that can be deployed in-band of LTE, in a guard band or stand alone. “Each NB-IoT carrier can support up to 200,000 connections, which can be easily scaled up by adding more carriers as capacity requires, for millions of IoT connections per cell site,” Ericsson says.
These advantages are detailed in the Ericsson white paper Cellular networks for massive IoT which provides a useful overview of all the 3GPP initiatives designed to enable cellular technologies to better meet the requirements of IoT. Not surprisingly, it concludes that these technologies alone will cater for all IoT requirements.
“For IoT applications, existing cellular networks offer distinct advantages over alternative WAN technologies, such as unlicensed LPWA. The global reach, QoS, ecosystem, TCO, scalability, diversity and security of cellular networks are all vital factors that can support the fast uptake and success of IoT. Enabled by new software in existing legacy networks, cellular networks can support a diverse range of IoT applications – ensuring the lowest possible TCO.”
28 IoT wireless technologies assessed
The Mobile Experts report LPWA vs LTE claims to provide and unbiased assessment of cellular and a whole range of LPWAN technologies, as well as short range technologies such as ZigBee. Mobile Experts claims the report “Identifies 86 IoT applications for LPWA and LTE, matching 28 technology variations with business scenarios.”
SigFox given the thumbs down
In tipping a two horse race between NB-IoT and LoRa, Analysys Mason says it expects these two to prevail because, in the case of LoRa it “has significant momentum, boasting networks in five continents. The technology has backing from vendors such as Cisco and IBM and communications service providers (CSPs) such as Du, Swisscom and KPN.
For NB-IoT “The weight of the established telecoms industry (including Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Nokia, Qualcomm and Vodafone) will be enough to make NB-IoT one of the main contenders.”
Analysys Mason says that SigFox, whose LPWAN networks are being rolled out in a number of countries, including Australia “lacks broad industrial support [and] its business model may also be unattractive to many potential partners.”
The research firm gives these forecasts only a medium chance of being accurate, but separately it expects the position to become much clearer in 12 months time.