LPWA Connectivity to Remain Dominant Across Smart City Segments, with 5G Representing Less Than 2% of All Cellular Connections in 2026

17 Feb 2021

Despite the important investments in 5G networks, the uptake of 5G across smart city segments will remain very low over the next five years.  Global tech market advisory firm ABI Research finds that of all cellular smart city connections, 75% will ride on LPWA LTE networks (Cat 1, Cat M, NB-IoT) in 2026, with around only 1.6% powered by 5G, accounting for less than 10 million connections globally.

“Next to the time needed to deploy 5G networks globally, there are two main reasons for the low uptake of 5G in smart cities applications,” says Dominique Bonte, VP End Markets and Verticals at ABI Research. “First, there is a high proportion of fixed lines, including fiber for connecting non-mobile applications like commercial buildings, signage, ITS, kiosks, smart electricity and gas meters, and surveillance. Second, where cellular is used, LPWA technologies are favored. This is due to the low bandwidth requirements for telemetry type applications such as smart streetlights, smart parking, metering, and smart bins, many of which are also connected via non-cellular, proprietary LPWA connectivity such as LoRa.”

However, in the longer term, new 5G use cases will emerge across a wide range of smart city segments, mostly centered around low latency, mission-critical services:

  • Remote monitoring and control of unmanned assets like drones, robots, and driverless vehicles
  • ITS applications like Intelligent Cooperative Traffic Lights and Emergency Vehicle Preemption
  • Remote healthcare services in ambulances
  • AI-base surveillance and security monitoring
  • Low latency edge cloud applications for demand-response and active security solutions

These findings are from ABI Research’s Smart Cities market data report. This report is part of the company’s Smart Cities and Smart Spaces research service, which includes research, data, and ABI Insights. Market Data spreadsheets are composed of deep data, market share analysis, and highly segmented, service-specific forecasts to provide detailed insight where opportunities lie.


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