5G Redcap, private networks gain momentum in IoT connectivity

Telenor IoT’s annual report into the state of the internet of things finds that poor technology choices can result in inferior performance, higher cost and a hindrance of long-term scalability and future readiness

As enterprises respond to the demands of the new world of work, they are increasingly recognising the role of the internet of things (IoT) in driving innovation and operational efficiency, but choosing the right connectivity technology for their specific use cases is still a daunting task, according to the fourth edition of the Connectivity Technologies Report from Telenor IoT.

Produced in collaboration with Accenture, the Connectivity technologies report aimed to address IoT challenges by providing enterprises with a structured approach to analyse their technical, commercial and ecosystem-related requirements.

Telenor IoT said that since the first edition of its report, the landscape for IoT connectivity technologies has evolved rapidly. In particular, it noted that the range of traditional cellular technologies has expanded with the introduction of 5G, while previous generations such as 2G and 3G are being phased out in many countries. Low-power wide-area (LPWA) technologies that were specifically developed for IoT applications have gained maturity and scale.

It stressed that the connectivity technology most suitable for different use cases depends on the technology requirements of each specific use case. The analysis identified and grouped these technology requirements into three categories – technical, commercial, and ecosystem-related – to provide a structured approach that enterprises could use to analyse their needs.

The standout finding was that no single technology was ideally suited to serve all potential IoT use cases, therefore different technologies will continue to co-exist as complementing rather than competing standards.

LoRa and NB-IoT were found to be good alternatives for IoT deployments in remote/wide areas that did not have high requirements for data speed or latency; together they are set to address a large share of this arena. The study showed the dynamic open ecosystem of LoRa was well-suited for private networks with customised deployments, enabling enterprises to operate own infrastructure and have high flexibility. Telenor noted that the cellular LPWA options NB-IoT and LTE-M were backed by major mobile operators, making use of the huge investments already made in deploying and operating mobile networks and offering standardised connectivity with global reach. It added that other proprietary technologies may address certain niche segments.

By contrast, the study advised that the most suitable technology options for applications requiring a high data rate were either 4G, 5G or Wi-Fi, depending on the scope of the IoT deployments. 5G was seen addressing already the needs of use cases with high and complex requirements such as autonomous vehicles. LTE Cat-1 and, in the near future, 5G RedCap were cited as the candidate technologies well-suited for the needs of the medium speed use cases. For local short-range applications, Telenor said the choice of connectivity technology was less obvious and often the interface and implementation of platform and application layers are most critical.

In a call to future action, Telenor IoT said enterprises that want a high degree of control over the network in a contained environment (such as mines), private networks can be an alternative to a public network.

Staying up to date with the latest IoT connectivity technologies is vital for enterprises to ensure they are using the most suitable technology for their needs. Continuously evaluating emerging technologies and their potential applications allows businesses to adapt and maintain a competitive edge.

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