The Evolution Of Cellular IoT (2019)

By Hani Beshara, Ericsson Inc.

The IoT market, from networks to devices to use cases and applications, is evolving at a record speed. It is set to unleash a major transformation that has not been seen since the industrial revolution. IoT promises to change how we live and interact with the world around us, and to transform business productivity measures. It will help to finally unwire the factory and to provide the next level of automation such that industries can operate more efficiently and offer optimal products & services.

Cellular IoT is not a new concept. It is widely adopted across the globe, with 2G and 3G networks providing Low Powered Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) connectivity enabling many early IoT applications. As per Ericsson’s mobility report, approximately 400 million 2G cellular connected devices have been in operation since early 2016. 4G LTE helped provide greater bandwidth, lower latency and increased support for large volumes of IoT devices per cell. By the end of 2018, the number of connections reached 1 Billion cellular connection. These will be enhanced further with the arrival of 5G networks, initially enabled by the 5G New Radio (NR) standard, which will enable Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC) that support increasingly critical applications.

The remarkable cellular IoT growth rate is expected to continue, and the number of devices connected by Massive IoT and other emerging cellular technologies is forecast to reach 4.1 billion by 2024.

Cellular IoT is supported by a rapidly growing ecosystem based on 3GPP global standards, offered by an increasing number of mobile network providers, and developed by a large number of device, chip set, module, and network infrastructure vendors. It offers unmatched global coverage in virtually every country in the world, Quality of Service, scalability, security and the flexibility to handle a varying set of requirements for a comprehensive range of use cases.

Four cellular IoT market segments are emerging with different requirements. These are:

  • Massive IoT: low cost devices, small data volumes, massive numbers
  • Broadband IoT: high throughput, low latency, larger data volumes
  • Critical IoT: ultra-reliability, ultra-low latency, very high availability
  • Industrial IoT: industrial protocols, time sensitive networks, precise indoor positioning

This paper will review the emerging segments and the current and future support for the specific requirements within those segments through LTE and NR wireless technologies.

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