Cellular IoT connections to hit 4.1bn in 2024

Paving the way for ‘smart city’ infrastructure, Ericsson forecasts the rapid growth of cellular IoT technology.
28 November 2018

Cellular IoT deployment lays the groundwork for ‘smart city’ infrastructure

Lofty visions of efficient and sustainable societies driven by vast sensor networks— or ‘smart cities’ as the concept is known more succinctly— could soon become a reality, according to a new report by Ericsson.  

In the Ericsson Mobility Report, the Swedish telecoms firm forecasts that the number of cellular IoT connections is on track to reach 4.1 billion in 2024. That represents an annual growth rate of 27 percent, as communications providers rally to deploy IoT infrastructure.

While, over the last five years, the number of cellular connected devices has grown at 33 percent, cellular IoT traffic still makes up a “very small portion” of total mobile traffic in service providers’ networks, says Ericsson.

Backed by increasing use cases and the deployment of 5G technology, however, ‘massive’ cellular technologies— namely NB-IoT and Cat-M1— are now “taking off”, reads the report, laying down the groundwork for the requirements of IoT technology across utilities, smart cities, logistics, agriculture, manufacturing, and wearables.

While ‘ultra low-end’ applications built on NB-IoT technology have managed limited demand so far— such as for sensors and monitoring— Cat-M1 is designed and standardized for massive IoT applications and is capable of supporting data rates of up to 1Mbps in both uplink and downlink.

NB-IoT and Cat-M1 are complementary to one another in supporting diverse low-power wide-area (LPWA) use cases over the same underlying LTE (long-term evolution) network.

They also cater for advanced use cases, including support for optimized voice quality, more accurate device positioning and “device mobility at high speed”— contributing to the seamlessness and ubiquity of IoT systems and smart city infrastructure in the years ahead.

Source: Ericsson

Of the 4.1 billion cellular IoT connections forecast for deployment in the next five years, North East Asia is expected to account for some 2.7 billion— a figure which, Ericsson says, is a testament to the “ambitions and size” of cellular IoT in the region. In comparison, Western Europe and North America will account for roughly 600 million and 300 million respectively.

“In parallel to the 5G rollout, cellular IoT is passing new milestones on its way to becoming the technology of choice for wide-area IoT applications,” said Fredrik Jejdling, Ericsson Executive Vice President and Head of Business Area Networks.  

The report follows recent news of a new international standard for IoT technology, providing an informational framework for the wide adoption of connected technology and smart sensors in society.

Issued by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the new standard is called ISO/IEC 30141, and serves as an internationally standardized reference architecture for IoT/Industrialized Internet of Things (IIoT) common vocabulary, reusable designs and industry best practice.