NB-IoT, CAT-M, SIGFOX and LoRa battle for dominance drives global LPWA network connections to pass 1bn by 2023

Cellular and non-cellular LPWA network connections will grow globally at a 53% CAGR until 2023, driven by market growth in smart meters and asset trackers, according to a new report from ABI Research, a market-foresight advisory firm providing strategic guidance on the most compelling transformative technologies.

In 2017, smart meters and asset trackers contributed to almost three-quarters of all LPWA network connections, dominated by non-cellular LPWA network technologies. However, by 2023, non-cellular LPWA will cede its market share dominance to NB-IoT and LTE-M, as cellular LPWA moves to capture over 55% of LPWA connections. Regionally, although Western Europe and North America witnessed early deployments of public LPWA networks, the Asia-pacific, especially China, has been a pivotal market for driving large-scale adoption of NB-IoT and LoRa.

“Asset tracking applications traditionally relied on complex, expensive solutions to track high-value assets. LPWA network technologies are making it feasible to build simple, small, and low-cost footprint devices that can track and monitor everything from sea-freight containers to bicycles, patients to pets, supermarket trolleys to pallets, paving the way for new innovative solutions and business opportunities,” said Adarsh Krishnan, principal analyst at ABI Research.

Adarsh Krishnan

Asset tracking, which includes tracking stationary or slow-moving assets, will have the largest share of LPWA connections in 2023, accounting for over 45% worldwide.

Smart meters deployed by energy and water utilities will be the second largest vertical IoT application in 2023 contributing over one-third of the global LPWA device connections. Early adoption from meter vendors such as Sensus, Itron, Kamstrup, Arad, and Holley metering means that non-cellular LPWA technologies are well positioned to capture two-thirds of the LPWA connections in smart meters by 2023.

In 2017, SIGFOX had the largest share of public LPWA connections worldwide benefiting from its first mover advantage in Europe. “SIGFOX has continued to stay a step ahead in public LPWA networks with the roll-out of the Monarch cognitive network service in early 2018. The Monarch service enables SIGFOX devices to automatically adapt to radio frequency changes allowing for seamless roaming across SIGFOX networks,” Krishnan explained.

Luis Vuitton’s Echo travel bag tracker was the first commercial SIGFOX device to leverage the Monarch service in over 100 airports across 26 countries. In contrast, LoRa gained significant market share as a popular connectivity technology for private networks, witnessing over 54% year-on-year growth in 2017.

Private LPWA networks, built to address a single vertical application or an individual enterprise, have been a popular choice for over a decade and accounted for 93% of LPWA connections in 2017. LoRa and other non cellular LPWA technologies have benefited from the decreasing cost of IC’s, low implementation costs and flexibility of private networks that can be tailored to meet specific enterprise IoT applications.

LoRa has witnessed exponential growth in APAC, especially in China where ZTE has deployed China LoRa Application Alliance (CLAA) LoRa networks in 40 Chinese cities and is starting to ramp-up deployment of smart meters, parking sensors, air-quality monitoring sensors and other smart city solutions. However, as the geographic footprint of public networks rapidly expands, cellular and non-cellular public networks will capture over 70% of LPWA connections by 2023.

These findings are from ABI Research’s Low-Power Wide Area Network Market Data report. This report is part of the company’s M2M, IoT & IoE research service, which includes research, data, and Executive Foresights.

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