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5 things to expect at Mobile World Congress

Posted: 27 Feb 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Mobile World Congress? M2M? IoT? 5G? LTE?

M2M disguised as IoT

Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication, refreshed under a hotter moniker, the Internet of Things (IoT), will take centre stage at this year's Mobile World Congress.

While not all IoT devices demand direct cellular connectivity (Bluetooth Low Energy or Wi-Fi could do the job), cellular network operators are aware of LTE's potential role in IoT apps that need high data rates, low latency or have a long time-in-market.

Today, a majority of M2M depends on GPRS. But LTEwhen adapted to the needs of M2M in the form of LTE Cat-0 or LTE-MTC"will eventually be more optimal for M2M than GPRS," said IHS senior principal analyst Sam Lucero. IHS estimates that M2M LTE connectivity services will grow from 182,000 cumulative connections in 2013 to 46.7 million cumulative connections in 2018.

However, in the M2M/IoT debate at the Mobile World Congress, LTE won't be the whole story.

Expect the M2M competition to heat up, as alternative network technologies are poised to steal some thunder. Several low data rate cellular style systems like LoRa and Sigfox are eager to fill in the market void until LTE Cat-0 (2015-2016) and LTE-MTC (2017-2018) are ready.

M2M LTE shipment

M2M LTE Module shipment forecast. Source: IHS

A narrowband, 900MHz network by Toulouse, France-based Sigfox, for example, is already deployed widely in France and Spain and has some coverage in the Netherlands and UK Telefonica, SK Telecom and NTT Docomo Ventures took part in Sigfox' latest funding round ($115 million) along with other new and existing investors.

Similarly, the LoRa Alliance based on proprietary technology from Semtech attracted a handful of small carriers as well as giants such as Cisco and IBM when it was launched at CES last month. The LoRa Alliance is expected to announce new carriers joining the group.

While media coverage of Sigfox and the LoRa Alliance comes with a lot of hype, Lucerno said, "Where we need to pay attention is when cellular network operators start signing onto those proprietary M2M networks." Without operators' support, these M2M networks wouldn't get much actual deployment, he explained. Although cellular network operators prefer "managing fewer networks," they could be persuaded if there are any immediate commercial opportunities for M2M. Potential customers can't wait another year or two until the LTE Category-0 becomes commercially available.

Asked about where IoT devices will need direct wireless cellular network connections, Lucerno said connected cars are a good example. Further, whenever developers want to have a direct control over connectionswhether remote equipment monitoring or a service contract, they want cellular network connectivity, he added. Another IoT prospect is home/health monitoring devices for which users either don't have broadband or don't know how to connect.

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