As 5G has been making headlines with major rollouts by AT&T and Verizon in the United States, some may think that 4G is now obsolete. They’d be wrong. In fact, 60% of IoT cellular module models rely on 4G.
IoT Model Numbers
Over the past two years, ABI Research has been actively monitoring 1,037 IoT models used among 52 module vendors. Over 600 of the IoT modules used 4G; only 45 used 5G.
IoT Hardware and Devices Research Analyst, Harriet Sumnall, observed, “This is not surprising, due to 5G not being applicable to many IoT applications outside of the automotive space and for fixed wireless terminals, due to the original release of 5G baseband modems being aimed at consumer mobile broadband market.”
Reasons for 4G’s Dominance
Consequently, 4G’s utility for IoT applications remains strong, spanning both high bandwidth – Cat.12 to Cat.20 – and low bandwidth – Cat.1 to Cat.4. One reason for this is that 4G is a technology that is globally available; the infrastructure for it has already been established, which is still not the case for 5G everywhere.
Another reason is that it has proven to be a viable choice for mid-to-long term future proofing of IoT devices. That’s because, unlike 2G and 3G, 4G is not under threat from network sunset.
The advantages of worldwide access and a more secure future means 4G is here to stay for a while, but not forever. Other technologies will become increasingly important in the IoT realm once they are firmly established.
Other Technologies Will Have Their Day
Currently, Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies, namely NB-IoT and LTE-M, contribute to 20% of the catalogued module models. LPWA is still in its earliest stages of growth; most of the module sales activity is attributed to China and for NB-IoT.
However, LPWA will be playing an increasingly vital role in the IoT in the future. It is positioned to become the leading technology of choice for many applications, including smart street lighting.
“Module vendors will be releasing more of both 5G and LPWA module models as these technologies find their feet within the IoT space.,” Sumnall concludes. But at present 4G still dominates.