LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS SHANGHAI 2017: China Unicom accelerated its NB-IoT rollout as it looks to the expanding range of IoT applications to drive future revenue growth and make up for an expected flattening in mobile traffic revenue growth.
Shen Hongbo, general manager of Shanghai Unicom, said during a keynote at the GSMA’s Global Mobile IoT Summit the potential for mobile subscriber growth is low in Shanghai, and while it is seeing continued growth in mobile traffic, which is driving revenue this year, the growth rate is expected to flatten starting next year.
“We’re seeing a bottleneck in [subscriber] growth in Shanghai, and we don’t see a lot more income being generated from traffic. More revenue will be generated from IoT, converged businesses as well as content-related operations. We will have to rely on IoT to grow our business,” he said.
Shen expects the IoT market to be driven by low-power, low-speed data collection applications like smart metering. Unicom estimates China’s low-power segment at three billion connections while the high-speed segment will be less than 200 million.
“So we’re first looking at the low-power, extended coverage market. This will be our priority,” he said.
China Unicom, Shanghai Unicom’s parent company, selected NB-IoT because it was the more mature technology in 2016 when it decided on an LPWA technology, he said, adding it is “always safe to go with the flow”, given many operators are opting for NB-IoT running on the 900MHz band.
Its NB-IoT network covering all of Shanghai went live on 5 May.
In addition to Shanghai, China Unicom launched NB-IoT in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Fuzhou, with applications including smart parking, smart fire sensors and smart meter services.