Demand for LPWA solutions is accelerating as competition intensifies among IoT network operators, network infrastructure vendors and service providers, according to a recently published report by global IoT research firm ON World.
“There are dozens of LPWA network operators in various stages of development today up from a handful just a few years ago,” said Mareca Hatler, ON World’s research director. “This has resulted in disruptive pricing for network connectivity and lower component costs for IoT developers.”
Unlicensed LPWA Networks
ON World’s analysis of nearly 100 LPWA network operators found that unlicensed networks such as Sigfox and LoRa® make up two-thirds today. Unlicensed networks have grown rapidly over the past few years with simple star networks, ease of installation and free spectrum. LoRa provides the added benefit of installation flexibility and adaptability where customer’s need private networks.
Sigfox and LoRa networks cover much of Europe and many parts of Asia Pacific with IoT services offered by telecom operators such as Arqiva, Bouygues, Orange, KPN, Proximus, Swisscom as well as a growing number of IoT independent operators such as Senet, Thinxtra and UnaBiz.
Licensed LPWA Networks
Licensed LPWA networks such as LTE-M and NB-IoT are growing even faster than unlicensed networks and make up nearly 1 in 3 of the LPWA operators we evaluated. NB-IoT network operator activity has accelerated over the past year and will grow 1800% this year. Licensed IoT network operators are offering ultra-low connectivity plans such as Deutsche Telekom’s €10 (~$12) for 10 years and 500 MB.
Mobile operators such as Deutsche Telekom, China Telecom and Vodafone are aggressively rolling out their licensed NB-IoT networks in Europe, China and Australia. In the U.S., all major operators including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile have fast-tracked their licensed IoT networks and most of these are providing both LTE-M and NB-IoT services. By the end of 2018, most of the U.S., Europe and Asia Pacific will be covered with licensed IoT networks.
ON World has identified 40+ unique LPWA applications and the largest and fastest growing LPWA markets include the following:
A third of the announced LPWA applications focus on smart city applications such as streetlight monitoring, parking solutions, waste management as well as air quality and noise pollution monitoring. Some of the largest commercial LPWA deployments are for municipals and transportation agencies such as Telensa’s millions of connected streetlights and 12,000 parking spaces in Moscow, Russia.
Already deployed in >5 million meters, LPWA metering solutions are growing rapidly with the fastest growth projected for gas and electric metering. Sigfox and LoRa are the most active smart grid LPWA technologies currently but LTE-M and NB-IoT solutions are quickly catching up. NB-IoT metering pilots are underway by Vodafone with partners Huawei, Diehl Metering and Janz CE in Europe and Australia as well as numerous pilots in China.
LPWA technologies also well suited to monitoring renewable energy sources. For example, SK Telecom provides LoRa enabled solar inverters to provide real-time energy usage information. ZTE has also launched an electric vehicle charging system using NB-IoT in China.
In addition to water metering, LPWA technologies are being tested for other smart water network applications. LoRa technology has been commonly used for water management applications in Europe. Birdz (previously Homerider Systems) has millions of LoRaWAN devices installed for water metering and related water management applications. Switzerland’s Eawag Dept. of Urban Water Management is conducting tests on water management using LoRa-enabled ultrasonic sensors with Loriot. In addition, South East Water (SEW) in Australia is testing NB-IoT and other LPWA networks for smart metering as well as monitoring devices in sewers, manholes and fire hydrants.
Low cost/long range asset trackers or smart tags will be the largest and fastest growing LPWA market in the next 5-10 years. LPWA network technologies such as LoRa enable localization capabilities to complement or even replace GPS that will lower service fees and enable wide area tracking, locating and monitoring of people, animals, vehicles, bicycles and other mobile assets.
In 2022, LPWA revenues from equipment and associated services will reach $56 billion.