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Cellular IoT connections to reach 3.5 billion by 2030

Strategy Analytics survey finds that despite mass roll-out of next-gen networks, in the real world of the internet of things, 4G will continue as the dominant underlying platform, and 5G-based IoT growth will be gradual over the remaining part of the decade

A study from Strategy Analytics has found that after 2020 witnessed slower than expected growth in internet of things (IoT) connections due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with a slight overall increase, similar growth rates are expected in 2021, with the pandemic highlighting the need for investment in telehealth, especially remote patient monitoring and diagnostics.

The analyst’s IoT cellular connections by air interface by region report highlighted that 5G accounted for less than 1% of IoT connections in 2020, but would rise to 40% of all the overall 3.5 billion cellular IoT connections by 2030, as also highlighted in its most recent IoT market forecast and analysis report. The majority of 5G connections will not be significant until 2026, with 4G remaining the dominant technology over the forecast period.

The analyst also predicted that the adoption of 5G would likely happen in different stages in the largest markets, with enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) reaching mass adoption first, ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communication (uRLLC) gaining traction soon after, and massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC) showing the longest tail.

It added that it expected adoption to be determined not only by application needs, but also by the availability of 5G chipsets, the speed and coverage of 5G network deployments, as well as the evolution of regulations. Overall, Strategy Analytics noted that even as 5G was developed, 4G would continue to co-exist, provide extensive coverage at a lower cost and remain very important in the IoT.

“The tipping point for 5G in IoT occurs when support for mMTC, a price decline in hardware and widespread network coverage see NB IoT and Cat M folded into 5G standards and devices,” said David Kerr, senior vice-president of the global wireless practice at Strategy Analytics. “For this reason, we think the pivot to 5G in IoT will be a gradual one, rather than a dramatic shift.”

“The pivot to 5G in IoT will be a gradual one, rather than a dramatic shift”
David Kerr, Strategy Analytics

The Strategy Analytics survey came just as technology decision-makers in UK enterprises revealed a need for a new type of IoT connectivity service provider to address pain points such as technical support, security of sensitive data and implementation of new technologies such as private LTE and eSIM.

As well as highlighting the need for service providers to address these changing demands, one of the top-line findings of research from the Pod Group was that almost half of IoT decision-makers believed enterprise ownership of the IoT network would give them greater control and visibility, and that the most important requirement for organisations was a need for greater technical support and troubleshooting focused on their application, with 45% of organisations citing this concern. This was a particular concern for IoT decision-makers at manufacturing and industrial companies, with almost three-fifths (57%) citing this as one of their biggest pain points.

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