Analyzing Comcast Expansion of LoRaWAN In the U.S.

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3Q 2017 | IN-4699

On July 18, 2017, Comcast announced plans to further expand its LoRaWAN based networks and services to 12 major U.S. cities. Comcast’s enterprise IoT network service, MachineQ was initially deployed in three cities, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay Area and Chicago in 4Q 2016. The initial 15 cities selected for MachineQ roll-out are among top 25 designated market areas(DMA) Comcast reported to have over 250 thousand customer relationships for its cable services in 2016. The network will primarily target businesses and local municipal organizations roll-out IoT solutions. On July 24, Cable Labs, a not for profit R&D consortium initially founded by American cable operators backed the LoRaWAN technology.

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Comcast Expands MachineQ Network Roll-Out to 15 US Cities

NEWS


On July 18, 2017, Comcast announced plans to further expand its LoRaWAN based networks and services to 12 major U.S. cities. Comcast’s enterprise IoT network service, MachineQ was initially deployed in three cities, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay Area and Chicago in 4Q 2016. The initial 15 cities selected for MachineQ roll-out are among top 25 designated market areas(DMA) Comcast reported to have over 250 thousand customer relationships for its cable services in 2016. The network will primarily target businesses and local municipal organizations roll-out IoT solutions. On July 24, Cable Labs, a not for profit R&D consortium initially founded by American cable operators backed the LoRaWAN technology.

Will other Cable MSO’s follow Comcast?

IMPACT


Comcast is the largest cable MSO in the U.S. with its presence in 41 states and its cable system operations passing through over 56.4 million homes and businesses. As of 2016, it has over 28.6 million customers in the U.S. serving nearly 35% of the U.S. population with video, voice and high-speed internet services. Comcast's business services revenue increased from $4.75 billion in 2015 to US$5.5 billion in 2016 with 16% growth. Much of this growth is attributed to increasing small and medium business customers adoption of high-speed internet and voice services. The recently announced MachineQ network will likely build on this growing momentum in Comcast's enterprise business. Comcast has also indicated plans to complement its outdoor LoRa network infrastructure by integrating LoRa connectivity to its customer premise equipment (CPE) similar to its Homespot initiative for public Wi-Fi hotspots.

ComcastMachineQ network will initially target enterprise or B2B market opportunities in utilities, asset tracking, healthcare, and smart cities. While Comcast has sufficient resources to build its own nationwide LoRa network across the U.S., its will more likely take a measured approach targeting regions where it has a significant customer footprint to develop its IoT business. CableLabs endorsement of loRaWAN as a ‘semi-proprietary’ LPWA network technology in comparison to Ingenu and SIGFOX’s proprietary solutions, is likely to encourage other Cable MSO's in the region further to adopt LoRaWAN. It is noteworthy: roaming capabilities in LoRaWAN 1.02 specification would allow Cable MSOs to benefit from a much larger geographic footprint that would be one of the most quintessential network requirement for tracking mobile assets.

Cable MSO’s IoT networks

COMMENTARY


LPWA networks are not a recent phenomenon in the U.S. where some proprietary enterprise or private LPWA networks have flourished in the past to support niche applications. According to an ABI research recently published IoT tracker report (IoT Market Tracker - United States) in 2016, proprietary LPWA networks already account for over 18 million connections in the U.S. These end-device connections have relied on private networks deployed by enterprise customers, especially utilities, aftermarket vehicle tracking and other asset tracking service providers. While Cable multi-system operators in the U.S. have been aggressive in delivering high-speed broadband, there has been limited progress on developing IoT networks to meet the growing demand, especially in IoT. The proliferation of non-cellular LPWA public networks are largely in response to increasing demand for dedicated, managed IoT networks for some vertical market applications.

In the U.S., although large energy utilities are nearing completion of their smart meter rollouts, a large number of local cooperatives are still either in early assessment or testing smart metering technology. Public LPWA networks are likely to witness most traction among local municipal utilities that have limited financial and personnel resources to develop and manage private networks. In the next 10 years, ABI research estimates over 58 million new battery operated smart water and gas meters installations in the U.S. Cellular and non-cellular public LPWA network connectivity technologies are expected to capture much of the market share from new smart water meter and smart gas meter connections. Furthermore, asset tracking applications are projected to add over a billion IoT connections in the U.S. in the next 10 years. Initially, much of this market will be driven by connecting fixed assets or assets that will be bound to a geographical area.

AT&T and Verizon have been aggressive in upgrading their network infrastructure to support 3GPP Release 13 defined cellular LPWA standard LTE-M. T-Mobile U.S. on July 13 also announced successful tests of another 3GPP standard Narrowband-LTE network in partnership with Qualcomm and Ericsson. With telcos rapidly deploying cellular LPWA networks, non-cellular LPWA technologies such as LoRaWAN helps Comcast and other Cable MSOs to offer its enterprise customers an alternative non-cellular public LPWA solution. However, Comcast is not the only network operators deploying LoRa network in the U.S. and is complemented by Senet, a start-up LoRa network operator, which claims to have covered over 100,000 square miles of coverage in 14 metro areas. Although Comcast has not committed to building a nationwide LoRa network on its own, it is most likely to focus on its top 25 DMA locations initially.

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