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IoT networks a massive sales opportunity for operators, claims GSMA

Commercial initiatives around low power wide area network infrastructure will present mobile operators with a potential $1.8tn revenue opportunity over the next decade

Mobile network operators (MNOs) look set to benefit from a $1.8tn (£1.4tn) revenue opportunity through 2026, stemming from commercial deployment of low-power wide area networks (LPWANs) in licensed spectrum to support internet of things (IoT) initiatives.

Ahead of October 2017’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) Americas, which will take place in San Francisco, the GSMA – the global MNO association and event organiser – has published new research conducted by analysts at Machina Research, indicating the scale of the opportunity inherent in building networks for the IoT.

According to the GSMA, 12 MNOs have already launched commercial mobile IoT services, including names such as AT&T, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Verizon and Vodafone.

“There is a real sense of momentum behind mobile IoT networks in licensed spectrum, with multiple commercial launches around the world – as well as the availability of hundreds of different applications and solutions – but there is still much to be done,” said Alex Sinclair, chief technology officer at GSMA.

“Many operators are already reaping the benefits of deploying Mobile IoT and we encourage others to act now to capitalise on this clear market opportunity and further accelerate its development.”

Particularly lucrative opportunities lie ahead around connected homes and cars, as well as consumer electronics, which could altogether be worth $1tn.

Other areas, such as connected energy and connected and smart cities, would likely account for more modest sums, but still be collectively worth at least $205bn over the same timescale.

Read more about LPWAN technology

The GSMA reported MNOs were currently using narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and long-term evolution for machines (LTE-M) to build LPWANs. Both these technologies use already-agreed 3GPP standards to scale the IoT for mass market applications. It predicted mobile IoT networks would account for 862 million active connections by 2022, or 56% of all LPWAN connections.

The GSMA is currently running a Mobile IoT Innovators project specifically to advance the development of LPWAN technology, and will be showcasing the efforts of some of its 650 members at its inaugural MWC Americas event in October.

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