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Predictions for the IoT

Investments in NB-IoT, LTE-M and new capabilities will prepare operators for an active 2018.
By Tom Rebbeck, Michele Mackenzie and Ahmed Ali
Jan 08, 2018

Operator revenue and connection numbers for the Internet of Things (IoT) continue to grow—annual growth rates of around 20 percent are typical. However, the billion-dollar acquisitions or contract wins of previous years have been absent in 2017. That being said, telecoms operators have been building out IoT connectivity networks—narrowband (NB-IoT) and long-term evaluation (LTE-M), in particular—adding capabilities (such as application- and device-management platforms) and working with the broader ecosystem (including developers, cloud players and hardware vendors). All of this should set the market up for an active 2018. Here's what you can expect to see in the IoT space next year.

Tom Rebbeck
Network Technologies
• Operators in China will continue to lead in NB-IoT in 2018.
China is the leading country for NB-IoT because all three Chinese mobile operators are building NB-IoT networks and government support for the technology is strong. We expect that lead to grow in 2018, and probably some large contract announcements (1 million connections or more). The United States will continue to be the leading country for LTE-M developments, thanks to AT&T's and Verizon's investments; large contract announcements are less likely, though.

• Operators will launch NB-IoT and LTE-M (not NB-IoT or LTE-M).
Verizon will launch NB-IoT in 2018, complementing its LTE-M network. Telia has also publicly committed to both technologies, as have several other operators. With the incremental cost of upgrading from one standard to both being relatively small (perhaps only an extra 10-20 percent to do both technologies, rather than just one), for many operators, the question will be which technology to prioritize and when to launch, rather than selecting only one of the technologies.

Michele Mackenzie
• 2018 will be a crucial year for the battle between cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) and 802.11p technologies.
The telecoms industry will increase the pace of development of C-V2X technology. Much attention will be on the European Commission and whether it decides to mandate V2X. A decision either way could have a significant impact on the success of either the LTE-derived C-V2X technology or the 802.11p standard.

Consumer IoT
• Will the next Apple Watch use LTE-M?
The next generation of the Apple Watch could use LTE-M. This is a stretch, given the status of the technology at the end of 2017, but LTE-M will support voice and streaming music (arguably a more important use case than voice) and it uses lower-cost modules and, crucially, provides better battery life. In many countries, at least one operator will support LTE-M by mid-2018. An Apple Watch on LTE-M is not likely in 2018, but it is possible.

Ahmed Ali
• The Kindle 3G model will be applied to consumer IoT.
Vodafone launched its V by Vodafone campaign in 2017, but the four consumer IoT products come with a monthly EUR3–4 subscription fee, a big detractor for many potential customers. Amazon bundles the cost of connectivity into the upfront cost of the Kindle 3G, and we expect other consumer IoT device providers to follow Amazon's example in 2018.

Enterprise IoT
• Further M&A of edge analytics and Industrial IoT (IIoT) firms.
There was significant investment in on IIoT and smart manufacturing in 2017. Startups like FogHorn and ForgeRock have secured large investments, while established companies such as Apple and GE are collaborating on solution development. Platform providers will build on this growth and will acquire or develop features for the IIoT in 2018.

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