There were two phrases that dominated this year’s Mobile World Congress, “IoT” and “5G.”
If MWC revealed anything at all, it’s that the IoT will be much bigger than initially anticipated, with far more interconnected cellular devices becoming operational. Companies will spend an estimated $5 trillion on IoT in the next five years, and we can expect a total of 22.5 billion connected devices by 2021. Moreover, the next generation of LTE, CAT-M1 and NB1, will be available sooner than initially expected, bringing the need for a highly integrated dual-mode LTE IoT chipset to the fore.
‘No man is an island entire of itself’ and, when it comes to the IoT ecosystem, no single player will be able to go it alone. MWC revealed that collaboration between companies will be key to formulating a successful IoT strategy. And we can expect to see increasingly more strategic partnerships, with different players bringing their individual strengths to the table to produce meaningful solutions.
While MWC included much excitement over the long-anticipated introduction of 5G technology, this will have little impact on the IoT space – at least for the next 24-36 months. Hype aside, current indications suggest that 5G usage will initially be restricted to highspeed broadband applications. Due to the significant network upgrades required, it will take considerable time for 5G to be fully deployed to address the IoT and it is estimated that mass 5G deployments will not begin until at least 2020, perhaps even later.
This, of course, means that 4G LTE will remain a key IoT connectivity technology for years to come. CAT-M1 and CAT-NB1, built on the existing LTE infrastructure, will be faster and easier to introduce. Rollouts of the first CAT-M1 networks have already begun and, to hear the discussions on the show floor, the technology already sounds almost mainstream.
As these technologies continue to optimize IoT devices – increasing security, extending battery life and reducing costs – the question now is what can we expect to see at MWC 2018?