According to the June 2022 edition of the Ericsson Mobility report, the number of IoT devices connected by NB-IoT and Cat-M technologies is expected to overtake 2G/3G connected IoT devices in 2023.
The Massive IoT technologies NB-IoT and Cat-M – primarily consisting of wide-area use cases involving large numbers of low-complexity, low-cost devices with long battery life and low throughput – continue to be rolled out around the world. The number of IoT devices connected via 2G and 3G has been in slow decline since 2019, and NB-IoT and Cat-M technologies are the natural successors. The number of devices connected by these Massive IoT technologies increased by almost 80 percent and reached close to 330 million in 2021.
The number of IoT devices connected by NB-IoT and Cat-M technologies is expected to overtake 2G/3G connected IoT devices in 2023, and to overtake broadband IoT in 2027, making up 51 percent of all cellular IoT connections at that time. The growth of Massive IoT technologies is enhanced by a recently added network capability that enables Massive IoT co-existence with 4G and 5G in FDD bands, via spectrum sharing.
About 124 service providers have commercially launched NB-IoT networks and 55 have launched Cat-M.1 These technologies complement each other, and around 40 service providers have launched both technologies.
In 2021, broadband IoT (4G/5G) overtook 2G and 3G as the technology that connects the largest share of all cellular IoT connected devices, accounting for 44 percent of all connections. Broadband IoT mainly includes wide-area use cases that require high throughput, low latency and large data volumes. By the end of 2027, 40 percent of cellular IoT connections will be broadband IoT, with 4G connecting the majority. As 5G New Radio (NR) is being introduced in old and new spectrum, throughput data rates will increase substantially for this segment.
North East Asia is the leading region in terms of the number of cellular IoT connections, and is forecast to reach 1.5 billion in 2022. The region is set to account for 60 percent of all cellular IoT connections in 2027.
2 These figures are also included in the figures for wide-area IoT.