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Don't believe the LPWAN hype (yet): It's still a work-in-progress

07 Jun 2018

While LPWAN is fast becoming a buzzword in the technology world, one data and analytics company says people should not be so quick off the mark to deploy it.

GlobalData believes that it’s still early days for the LPWAN era, despite an increased uptake as mobile operators increasingly offer Internet of Things (IoT) services.

LPWAN (Low-Power Wide-Area Network) technology can be used in many IoT environments, including in the telecommunications space.

According to the GSMA, there have been 48 rollouts across the world that involve LPWAN technologies. These are either Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) or Long-term Evolution for Machines (LTE-M) networks.

As of April 2018, 31 launches were for NB-IoT and 26 operators had launched LTE-M networks.

GlobalData says some operators are building both networks, or plan to do so in the near future to leverage the separate benefits associated with bandwidth costs and voice support.

“As the operators that have deployed the technology can attest, the expectation is that the lower costs and extended battery life of LPWANs will draw thousands of companies,” comments GlobalData research director of Global IT Managed & Hosted Services, Kathryn Weldon.

“In particular, use cases for utility or energy management, asset tracking, and smart cities, which often require only sporadic or periodic remote sensor readings of far-flung equipment or assets, would provide the bulk of opportunities.”

The research firm asserts that many marketing and monetisation plans lack a strategy that goes beyond connectivity. Instead they should also focus on higher-value services such as device and connectivity management, application enablement and management, bundled hardware/software/connectivity packages and support for seamless low-cost global roaming.

The firm also says common conversations about LPWAN have centred on low-cost connectivity which is supposed to draw many connections to IoT – despite the low average revenue per users, the networks may well pay for themselves.

To be fair, we are still at the beginning of the LPWAN era. But the first rumblings about whether we are seeing traction and monetization are starting to be heard and the reviews are mixed,” Weldon says.

“Clearly there is some concern in the industry that the anticipated massive uptake of LPWANs will not be realised as easily as they had hoped, but the roll-outs continue and optimism remains, tempered with realistic concerns about how best to monetize the investments. And of course the elephant in the room is 5G; if 5G is coming sooner than expected; it may displace LPWANs before they have barely started.”

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