A new report from Beecham Research Cellular Modules for IoT 2017 explores some of the significant changes now taking place in this market.
Cellular modules are a key element of IoT solutions, particularly as connectivity becomes integrated into new products during manufacture. This is increasingly the case as the opportunities for creating packages of product and associated services increases. OEMs are seeing the opportunities for recurring revenue from services in addition to the one-off sale of their products.
The cellular market is now in transition in some regions – in particular the US and APAC – away from 2G and, within the next few years, 3G towards high and low data rate 4G, then to 5G. This is not a simple change. Low data rate 4G, characterised by LTE-M and NB-IoT, require software upgrades to cellular base stations and many of these will be occurring within the next 12 months. At the same time, high data rate connectivity is increasingly being sought by users to support richer use of data in their applications and greater use of image data.
This greater use of data includes the need for combining cellular with other forms of wireless technology, for example Bluetooth, WiFi, GNSS and LoRa. We are seeing greater introduction of combination modules that include several technologies. At the same time, cellular modules are becoming a key element for security in IoT solutions, with the secure boot providing a root of trust. In addition, there is a growing need to integrate modules with cloud services as part of an overall IoT solution and that means more closely aligning cellular modules with IoT platforms.
There is also a growing move towards eUICC – the concept of an embedded SIM updateable over the air. It is becoming increasingly likely that embedded SIMs will be embedded directly in the modules, not just on the device circuit boards.
Finally, we are now seeing a rapid rise in market share of some Chinese suppliers, in particular Quectel which has move from less than 1% to well over 10% market share by volume shipped within 3 years.
These are busy and challenging times for cellular module vendors in the IoT market, reflecting the importance of these components as key elements in the wider development of the burgeoning IoT market. For more on this, see Beecham Research’s report – Cellular Modules for IoT 2017 at www.beechamresearch.com.