Almost three times the number of commercial Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) networks were announced last year compared with 2015, led by an increase in action around the fledgling NB-IoT standard and growth into new markets.
Statistics released by research firm Analysys Mason show 85 new networks were announced as live, in a trial phase or in development in 2016 compared with 29 in 2015.
In 2016 some 25 NB-IoT networks were announced, and while several operators including Deutsche Telekom say they have live networks, to date none have launched commercial services. The report also highlighted the market remains fragmented with at least eight different LPWA standards now in use around the world.
Analysys Mason said the growth in NB-IoT was driven by Vodafone Group. The company long championed the standard and announced in October it would be launching live LPWA networks in Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands and Spain during Q1 2017. The group is expected to have similar deployments in place across its global footprint by 2020.
Of the unlicenced LPWA alternatives, the company reported LoRa announced 25 network initiatives (up 127 per cent on 2015), although it points out these have been driven by infrastructure providers and start-ups, with only 28 per cent being operator led. In 2015 operator initiatives accounted for 82 per cent of new LoRa announcements. The majority of mobile operators, it seems, will support the 3GPP-backed NB-IoT standard for LPWA Internet of Things services (the report states the 25 NB-IoT operator-led initiatives accounted for 66 per cent of all new operator LPWA initiatives in 2016).
Sigfox, which received significant financial backing last year from high profile names including Intel, Salesforce, the French Government and Telefonica, announced 23 new initiatives in 2016 (up from nine in 2015), with only three of its new projects led by operators.
While early LPWA deployments were concentrated in the US and Western Europe, Analysys Mason found interest in the technology spread during 2016, with strong traction being seen in the APAC market.
During 2015, two thirds of initiatives took place in the US and Western Europe whereas in 2016 the figure was down to less than a third. Simultaneously APAC showed growth from 4 per cent in 2015 to 30 per cent in 2016.
The report identified developments in Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand as being especially significant in the regional shift identified last year.
Lead analyst on the report, Aris Xylouris, concluded: “LPWA network deployments more than doubled in 2016 as countries outside Europe enter the race to deploy networks.”
He added Analysys Mason anticipates further significant announcements in the lead up to MWC 2017, in addition to at the event itself. Indeed, the report claims “it is likely that the launch of the first real commercial deployment of an NB-IoT network will be among the announcements at MWC 2017.”