LIVE FROM LPWA WORLD 2018, LONDON: Network giant Ericsson believes low power wide area (LPWA) cellular technologies NB-IoT and LTE-M are both on the path towards global footprints, with operators set to deploy the technologies “in parallel” from 2019.

In a presentation, Yasir Hussain, strategic product manager at the vendor’s Networks unit (pictured), said operators would no longer be deciding between the two technologies as has been the case over the past two years.

To date, the two major licensed and standardised LPWA technologies have both been backed by major operators, but most have tended to choose one technology over the other.

North American operators have largely opted for LTE-M; Asia, and China in particular, are pushing NB-IoT; and rollouts in Europe have been somewhat mixed.

From 2019 and beyond, Ericsson expects the market will reach a point where the two major cellular LPWA technologies begin to overlap and operators will have the capability on their infrastructure to enable both, thus making it “easier not to have to make that decision”.

“This is the direction we are heading in over the next two years,” he said. “We will see absolutely a global footprint of both technologies. I think that’s already being reflected in the devices, which are a combination of narrowband and supporting legacy 2G for fallback and coverage reasons.”

“And you have the same for Cat-M [LTE-M]. We are starting to see combinations depending on what you want to do. That’s a key picture for us to realise…for us as a vendor and as an entire ecosystem that we will have the two technologies to work with.”

Hussain described 2017 as an “enabling” year for LPWA, but expects the requirements to change once 5G is introduced, with the focus placed on enabling different use cases.

He also said 5G will not mean 4G-based NB-IoT and LTE-M will need to be replaced.

“Within the 5G context, one of the most common questions I get is ‘what will be the 5G equivalency?’ That is the key focus of our studies. Do we need something to replace these and, if not, how do they become 5G technologies? The quick answer is that these are the 5G technologies of the future. We will not replace them, but we will evolve them and we will insert 5G requirements that are different from the initial requirements of two years ago.”

“The challenge in the future will be how do we make them coexist when LTE is eventually offset?” he added.