5G will hit the IoT market in late 2020 and struggle for years, claims report
Next-generation 5G technology will only appear in the internet-of-things (IoT) market in late 2020, and struggle to find its mark in the space for years afterwards, according to a new report from analyst firm Berg Insight. As late as 2023, just three per cent of IoT connections will utilise 5G, it predicted.
Berg Insight has considered the three evolutionary specifications of the 5G New Radio (NR) standard, as prescribed in 3GPP’s Releases 15 and 16. These cover enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive machine-type communications (mMTC), and ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC).
The initial phase of 5G Non-Standalone deployments are focused on eMBB, which provides moderate improvements in terms of bandwidth and latency improvements on both 5G NR and 4G LTE, and will help to develop familiar mobile broadband use cases, including for data-hungry augmented and virtual reality (AR / VR) applications and high-definition video streaming.
It also lends itself to emerging use cases, including connected cars, security cameras and industrial routers, said Berg Insight. But these represent only a “smaller subset of high-bandwidth cellular IoT applications”, it said.
Instead, the transformative value of 5G for enterprise users comes with mMTC and URLLC, it noted, which will be formalised in Release 16 versions of the technology, and start to appear in late 2020, finally gaining ground after 2023.
“The real commercial breakthrough will not happen until the mMTC use case has been implemented in the standard,” commented Tobias Ryberg, principal analyst at Berg Insight, and author of the report.
In planning, mMTC works as an evolution of the LTE-M/NB-IoT enhancements to the 4G standard. ButNB-IoT has only just started to appear in commercial products, noted Berg Insight. “There is no immediate demand for a successor,” said Ryberg.
“5G still has some way to go before it can become a mainstream technology for cellular IoT. 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 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. But it will take time to gain ground, Berg Insight claimed – “based on the experience of previous introductions of new standards”.
Over time, fifth generation mobile networks will become necessary to cope with the expected exponential growth of IoT connections and data traffic. But it will take time. Berg Insight forecasts that 5G will account for just under three per cent of the total installed base of cellular IoT devices by 2023.
Ryberg said: “5G enables the deployment of high-density networks of AI-supported security cameras to monitor anything from security-classified facilities to national borders or entire cities. How this technology is used and by whom is likely to become one of the most controversial issues in the next decade.”
Consultancy firm KPMG said, in interview with Enterprise IoT Insights, that LTE will work as a stop-gap for non-critical factory communications, but that is it. The role of cellular networks as essential components of industry’s new digital infrastructure, and the valuting ambition of the telecoms community to reinvent itself for a new market, rests almost entirely on 5G, it seems.
“If an industrial plant only has a need for technology solutions that are sensitive to extreme latency and strict timing requirements, then they would most likely wait for Release 16 or until the latency metrics they need are met,” said Michael Flaherty, the company’s director of technology enablement.
The new findings from Berg Insight are included in a new report on the global IoT communications market, which also finds that China accounted for 63 per cent of the global installed base of cellular IoT connections at the end of 2018.
The report finds the global number of cellular IoT subscribers increased by 70 per cent during 2018 to reach 1.2 billion. The number is expected to reach nine million by 2023, according to the research firm.
“China is deploying cellular IoT technology at a monumental scale”, said Ryberg. “According to data from the Chinese mobile operators, the installed base in the country grew by 124% year-on-year to reach 767 million at the end of 2018. The country has now surpassed Europe and North America in terms of penetration rate, with 54.7 IoT connections per 100 inhabitants.”
Global revenues from cellular IoT connectivity services increased by 19 per cent in 2018 to reach € 6.7 billion ($7.52 billion).