Cellular IoT: towards a ramp-up?

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Cellular IoT gets full benefit of 5G and will reach 900 million units a year in 2026.

“Wireless connectivity of things has stopped being an abstract concept”. asserts Claire Troadec, Division Director, Power & Wireless at Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group. “Today, everyone has their personal experience with connectivity or at least has heard about it. It could be through Bluetooth earphones, a fitness band or the connection of their electric meter to their home Wi-Fi. These applications, often using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, are referred to as Personal Area Networks or Home Automation”.

This market, which is based on short-distance, non-critical operations, already exists. Nevertheless, the generalization of the IoT, connected devices in all aspects of our society and industries, has not fully happened yet. So, what’s next?

Titre du visuel

june 2021

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Thematic(s) :

There has been a lot of movement in the IoT field with the arrival of 5G. With the development of network slicing, a technology mainly intended for IoT. Moreover, regulators are opening frequencies for private networks that private companies would directly license. Furthermore, new 5G connectivity industrial modules are emerging. 

“In general, the value chain is starting to mature and now offers convenient solutions for IoT developments using cellular connectivity; It is expected to solve most of the previously seen IoT adoption and development problems”. emphasizes Mohammed Tmimi, PhD, Technology and Market Analyst, RF Devices & Technologies at Yole. He adds: “It also means that the volumes for 5G IoT and cellular IoT, in general, will start their ramp-up quite soon. However, they will not reach the unrealistic advertised volumes.”

Indeed, cellular IoT will persist as a combination of niche applications without the awaited expansion into personal area networks, i.e., wearables and consumer electronics, announces Yole, in its new RF electronics report, 5G mMTC and IoT platforms – Technology and Market Trends 2021.

Therefore, the market research and strategy consulting company, Yole announces today the release of its 5G mMTC & IoT platforms technology and market analysis.
Because of the dynamic of this industry, Yole’s analysts have decided to investigate cellular IoT solutions and their impact on the 5G implementation. This new report is a comprehensive description of the general market dynamics. With market forecasts at the wafer, components and system levels and related market trends, this study offers realistic prospects regarding the market potential at the RF front-end level. Yole delivers an in-depth analysis of the existing and emerging applications with a special focus on 4G/5G public and private frequencies… In addition a significant section is dedicated to the analysis of the competitive landscape, the supply chain, the market shares…

As analyzed by Yole’s team in the new 5G mMTC and IoT platforms – Technology and Market Trends 2021 report, multiple approaches have been tried in the past to develop the IoT. They have used unlicensed frequencies, through protocols like the IEEE802.15.4 based Zigbee or Z-Wave, the LoRaWAN and Sigfox protocols, or long-range Wi-Fi. But this has not been a success, mainly due to the general requirement for data reliability and security, meaning confidentiality, integrity, and availability. But this is changing now with cellular protocols aimed at IoT.

These cellular protocols range from the low data rate NB-IoT to the very high data rate, high reliability, low latency 5G Cat20. The latter has finally started to see traction from the industry.
For Cédric Malaquin, Technology & Market Analyst, RF Devices & Technology at Yole: “Cellular deployment is expensive, either on a capital expenditure standpoint for private networks or an operating expenditure standpoint when using public networks. But 5G offers unprecedented capabilities in terms of data security, creating a market opportunity for critical applications. These are niche applications, for example, in highly automated industrial environments, where wireless connectivity adds a lot of value. Other applications range from machine vision to autonomous guided vehicle monitoring. They are now motivating investment in 5G deployments, thus opening the market for all other cellular-based deployments to come”.

Market volume is expected to reach 900 million devices in 2026. It started in 2020 with a volume of 298 million units driven by the replacement of 2G/3G devices like points of sale or telematics.
These volumes are still very far from the billions of industrial connected devices anticipated by tech companies several years back. This is mostly due to the niche nature of IoT applications. But this still represents a big market opportunity, reaching US$859 million in 2026 from US$257 million in 2020 with a 22.3% CAGR for 2020-2026 at the RF front-end component level.

Yole’s analysts expect to see increased use of cellular IoT in 2023 thanks to worldwide deployments of true 5G public networks, using standalone 5G, permitting network slicing. They also expect to see a new RF module offering in 2023, given that today the only solution is provided by Qualcomm at a quite expensive cost. Developments are awaited from other players, like Sequans Communications. Qualcomm will also soon release its second generation of 5G modules, expected at half the price of its current solution. The IoT industry needs this diversification and strengthening of supply.
By 2023, Yole sees also more private networks deployments. Whereas today they are starting at pilot level and are meant for high-value applications. But, once deployed, they are expected to be used for lower value IoT applications, especially those using LTE-M or the future NR-Light protocols.
Therefore, the future ramp-up of IoT is expected through the conveniently timed conjunction of events at public network, devices, and private network levels for 2023. Once this cellular IoT adoption happens, the democratization of the technology will finally take place. It will be followed by industrial consolidation in the longer term, and ubiquitous use of the licensed radio frequencies for non-consumer purposes.

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