Recently at Mobile World Congress 2019, we could witness how deep the Internet of Things has now penetrated the whole telecom ecosystem. On the show, very few exhibitors had nothing to say or to show on the IoT. The whole industry seems now ready to embrace the Internet of Things opportunity with IoT technology somehow integrated within the companies’ strategy or offering. And compared to a few years ago, we may note that all the telecom giants with no exception have now jumped into the IoT game which in itself is a sign of the market reaching a significant development milestone. The next big thing at MWC 2019 was of course 5G pushed by the leading technology providers both on the chipset front (Qualcomm, Intel…) and network equipment side (Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei). And the key message was: 5G is coming, get prepared now, be ready for tomorrow!
5G also finds its place in the IoT arena, for “massive IoT” applications or solutions requiring very low-latency, high bandwidth and robust cellular connections. In the first wave of 5G IoT use cases we can anticipate enterprise and consumer IoT applications like Fixed Wireless Access, high-speed cellular routers, always connected PCs, and a galaxy of mobile broadband devices using AR, VR, drones. But 5G should also bring specific benefits in the field of smart factories, smart cities and smart cars. Quectel, the global leading cellular module supplier, has announced its first 5G modules at MWC. This year, the IoT modules manufacturers will have to be able to offer solutions ranging from Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) such as LTE-M/NB-IoT and broadband cellular with LTE-A and 5G. In this very competitive space, Quectel has experienced an incredible growth over the last decade. It has now become the leader of the market and we took the opportunity of the show to inquire about the reasons for their success.
Since its creation in China in 2010, Quectel has been focusing on the IoT opportunity and has managed to develop a very large portfolio of cellular modules ranging from NB-IoT to the newly announced 5G modules. All their products are certified by global MNOs, regulatory authorities or other organizations to satisfy the demands of their regional customers. On top of a rich product portfolio, the company has also been able to build up a global sales and technical support network which is recognized for its skills and responsiveness. Indeed, as per the comments of their customers, Quectel has deployed experienced FAEs in all the regions, backed by a CRM-like support tool and knowledge base designed to efficiently manage customers’ requests.
Discussing with Doron Zhang, Senior Vice President at Quectel, the company states they have adopted a truly customer-oriented culture throughout the organization and a unique ability to be the first mover on the market in launching new technologies, e.g. 5G, NB-IoT, C-V2X, LTE-A, AI, etc. Quectel also claims to offer the richest product portfolio in the cellular module industry, from NB-IoT, LTE all the way to 5G and beyond. The history of the company shows a long-term commitment. Quectel has always been focusing on cellular modules and they remain very optimistic about the growth potential of this industry and the role the company should play in this market.
At MWC, Quectel announced and displayed one of the industry’s first commercial 5G modules, the RG500Q and RM500Q. They will be completed by the RM510Q and RG510Q later this year (in Q3). These four 5G modules are planned to go to mass production at the end of 2019 or at the beginning of 2020.
On their booth Quectel also showcased their latest LPWA modules like an NB-IoT/2G module and a Cat M1/NB-IoT/2G module based on the Qualcomm 9205 chipset. Quectel claims a very strong position in the LPWA segment, which should represent the biggest part of the volumes shipped on the IoT market in a few years from now. We could also have a look at the Quectel C-V2X module, which is intended to pave the way for autonomous driving.
Beyond connectivity and protocols, the IoT requires a true reflection on the appropriate architecture for each type of application. And in this matter, Edge processing / Intelligence at the Edge is one of the options to consider. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can bring a valuable help to trigger decisions at the edge and when questioned on this subject, Quectel explained that they are providing a series of Smart Modules with built-in GPU and AI engine. Their customers can therefore customize the modules and embed the market-specific intelligence adapted to their specific needs.
The IoT market, in its diversity, has always been fed and stimulated by the innovations emerging within the telecom space as well as in the field of analytics and processing. Sustaining and supporting the ever-growing number of connectivity options and protocols is a real challenge for the companies delivering technologies enabling the IoT. After this 2019 edition of the MWC, we believe, more than ever, that the companies looking to be successful in the IoT market should select their technology suppliers with care, considering their ability to cope with innovation and new standards but also their capacity to guarantee long-term commitment and stability in their offerings. So far, the IoT module suppliers have done a rather good job in this area and this was confirmed by our interview with Quectel. Let’s hope that on the network side, the operators will also manage to offer both the flexibility, stability and security the IoT requires to reach massive scale.