IoT Growth Is Non-Cellular LPWA’s Greatest Ally, But Its Biggest Foe Is Lack of Standards

14 Jul 2016

The market for non-cellular (non-3GPP) M2M Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies, such as LoRa and SIGFOX, holds the potential for healthy growth, says ABI Research. But with no set standard among proprietary vendors, growth will be conservative until influential vendors identify and address the challenges to widespread adoption, which include opening up the vendor ecosystem and developing a feasible revenue model for public networks.

Addressing such challenges is critical for continued growth, as proprietary LPWA technologies face fierce competition from cellular LPWA standards such as NB-IoT, EC-GSM-IoT, and eMTC that have strong backing from an open and robust cellular vendor ecosystem. Important non-3GPP LPWA technologies providers include Semtech Corporation, SIGFOX, Ingenu, Sensus, Microchip, Silicon Labs, and Kerlink.

“While network operators typically favor non-cellular LPWA technologies for their low deployment and maintenance costs, the lack of standards among proprietary vendors is a drawback to wider adoption of these technologies,” says Adarsh Krishnan, Senior Analyst at ABI Research. “The closed ecosystem is limiting market innovation and suppressing year-on-year growth.”

The Weightless SIG consortium is working on a standard-based LPWA technology to propel the market forward but remains plagued by its past failures to deliver a credible solution. It recently unveiled plans to develop its new Weightless-P technology in collaboration with Taiwanese company M2COMM. The LPWA technology is expected to be available by Q3 2016 for both public and private network deployment.

Private networks are popping up everywhere, favored by utility companies that need to cater to smart grid applications. However, public network infrastructure is gaining ground, and by late 2017 to early 2018, it will become the gateway for more intelligent and reliable LPWA technologies to come into play.

“This is one market ripe for development, and there are many application segments out there in which LPWA technologies can be utilized but did not find their place yet, such as connected agriculture and commercial building automation,” concludes Krishnan. “Once the infrastructure for nationwide public networks takes off and standardizations are set, we will start to see these new applications come out of the woodwork, and we believe it will signify big opportunity for the non-3GPP LPWA technologies.”

These findings are from ABI Research’s Non-Cellular M2M: Low-Power Wireless Access Market Update. This report is part of the company’s IoT, IoE, & M2M sector, which includes research, data, and analyst insights.

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