Berg Insight: China driving global cellular IoT adoption via NB-IoT; 5G-IoT coming in late 2020

A new report from the IoT analyst firm Berg Insight estimates that the global number of cellular IoT (e.g. NB-IoT, LTE-M, LTE, 2G, 3G, etc) subscribers increased by 70 percent during 2018 to reach 1.2 billion.  IoT growth was driven by “exceptional adoption” in China. 

The market research firm forecasts that there will be 9 billion IoT devices connected to cellular networks worldwide by 2023.

China, which accounted for 63% of the global installed base in 2018, is expected to continue to be the key driver for IoT adoption, as the Chinese government is actively driving adoption as a tool for achieving domestic and economic policy goals.

“China is deploying cellular IoT technology at a monumental scale”, said Tobias Ryberg, principal analyst and author of the report.

According to data from the Chinese mobile operators, the installed base in the country increased by 124% year-on-year to reach 767 million at the end of 2018.

China has overtaken Europe and North America in penetration rate with 54.7 IoT connections per 100 inhabitants, Ryberg said.

He said the role of the government is the main explanation for why China is ahead of the rest of the world in the adoption of IoT.

“The most distinctive characteristic of the Chinese IoT market is however the way that the government is systematically using new technology to implement its vision for urban life in the 21st century,” Ryberg said.

“At the same time the private sector also implements IoT technology to improve efficiency and drive innovation.”

China has witnessed widespread adoption of connected cars, fleet management, smart metering, asset monitoring and as well as new consumer services like bike sharing.

The report also analyses the IoT business KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) released by mobile operators in different parts of the world and found significant regional differences.

While China has the world’s highest IoT penetration rate, Europe seems is doing better job in terms of monetizing the IoT business.

According to the report, the monthly ARPU for cellular IoT connectivity services in China was only €0.22 ($0.25), compared to € 0.70 in Europe.

Global revenues from cellular IoT connectivity services increased by 19% in 2018 to reach €6.7 billion. The ten largest players had a combined revenue share of around 80%.


Editor’s Note:  The most popular cellular IoT network in China is NB-IoT.  China Telecom Offers NBIoT Nationwide. ChinaTelecom has built the world’s largest NBIoT network so far by upgrading 310,000 base stations acrossChina to support NBIoT. … It is using the 800MHz spectrum band, which is being refarmed for 4G in China and enables good in-building penetration and very wide coverage.

A GSMA case study illustrates how China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom enable consumers and businesses to benefit from better services using NB-IoT, while opening up new business models for mobile operators and their partners.

Supporting extensive coverage and low power consumption, NB-IoT is making it feasible to securely remotely monitor and control very large volumes of everyday devices, appliance, machines and vehicles. Both consumers and businesses in China are now benefiting from greater convenience, better reliability, and improved safety and security.

Above image courtesy of GSMA


In a separate report, Berg Insight says 5G will reach the IoT market in late 2020. 

The first 5G cellular IoT modules will become available to developers this year, enabling early adopters to create the first IoT devices based on the standard. Based on the experience of previous introductions of new standards, 5G will however not be an instant hit. By 2023, Berg Insight forecasts that 5G will account for just under 3 percent of the total installed base of cellular IoT devices.

“5G still has some way to go before it can become a mainstream technology for cellular IoT”, says Tobias Ryberg, Principal Analyst and author of the report.

“Just like 4G when it was first introduced, the initial version of 5G is mostly about improving network performance and data capacity. This is only relevant for a smaller subset of high-bandwidth cellular IoT applications like connected cars, security cameras and industrial routers. The real commercial breakthrough will not happen until the massive machine type communication (mMTC) use case has been implemented in the standard.”

mMTC is intended as an evolution of the LTE-M/NB-IoT enhancements to the 4G standard. Since NB-IoT has only just started to appear in commercial products, there is no immediate demand for a successor. Over time, fifth generation mobile networks will however become necessary to cope with the expected exponential growth of IoT connections and data traffic. The report identifies homeland security as an area where 5G cellular IoT can have a major impact already in the early 2020s.

“5G enables the deployment of high-density networks of AI-supported security cameras to monitor anything form security-classified facilities to national borders or entire cities”, says Mr. Ryberg.

“How this technology is used and by whom is likely to become one of the most controversial issues in the next decade.” 





3 thoughts on “Berg Insight: China driving global cellular IoT adoption via NB-IoT; 5G-IoT coming in late 2020

  1. From Telit: State of 5G and IoT

    Mobile IoT refers specifically to Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies using licensed spectrum bands. Both 3GPP narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and Long-Term Evolution Machine Type Communications (LTE-M) technologies are integral to the new 5G era of fast broadband communications. LPWA paves the path to 5G with undisrupted information flow. These 4G technologies are expected to continue under full support in 5G networks for many years and releases to come.

  2. Patrick Moorhead:

    One new industry that has a big area of focus for 3GPP Release 16 is Industrial IoT. In the area of industrial IoT, private 5G networks are a big lure for factory owners, but operators who have been part of the creation of the standard don’t want to have issues with these private networks, so Qualcomm is helping them bridge the gap between them to find solutions that satisfy both parties. Qualcomm has been a pioneer in enabling the use of unlicensed spectrum for 4G LTE (LAA), which is partly what has enabled some of the crazy LTE speeds you may have been noticing recently. With 5G, however, they’ve found a way to separate the licensed and unlicensed carriers so that a licensed anchor isn’t required to enable unlicensed access. These networks will most likely operate on the 60 GHz unlicensed band, much like LAA operates on 5 GHz today, but there’s also the possibility it may operate on other frequencies like 6 GHz and 95 GHz.

  3. The Global M2M/IoT Communications Market to 2023 – Update on the Adoption of NB-IoT and LPWA Standards for M2M/IoT Networking by Research and Markets

    The report estimates that the global number of cellular IoT subscribers increased by 70 percent during 2018 to reach 1.2 billion at the end of the year.

    The Global M2M/IoT Communications Market analyses the latest trends and developments in cellular IoT and low power wireless networking.

    Until 2023, the number of cellular IoT subscribers is forecasted to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 49.4 percent to reach 9.0 billion at the end of the period. This report covers in-depth the mobile operator perspective on the global M2M/IoT communications market. Get up to date with the latest trends from all main regions and vertical markets with this unique 180 page report.

    Highlights from the report:

    -360-degree overview of the cellular IoT communications ecosystem.
    -Update on the adoption of NB-IoT and LPWA standards for M2M/IoT networking.
    -Reviews of the IoT strategies of leading mobile operators.
    -Summary of industry trends in all world regions.
    -IoT business KPIs for leading global mobile operators.
    -Statistical data on cellular IoT subscribers in all world regions.
    -Extensive global and regional market forecasts lasting until 2023.—update-on-the-adoption-of-nb-iot-and-lpwa-standards-for-m2miot-networking-300852344.html

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