QUALCOMM 4G/5G SUMMIT, HONG KONG: Executives from three leading mobile operators said they back 3GPP-licensed low power wide area (LPWA) technologies NB-IoT and LTE-M as the best long-term investments, but highlighted there remains some confusion regarding the variety of IoT network options being pushed globally.
Marco Quatorze, head of VAS and IoT at America Movil (pictured, centre), said looking five years ahead the path is quite clear – it’s NB-IoT: “All the operators I’ve talked with say they will deploy it.”
The present situation, however, is not so easy and a little bit confusing, he admitted. A lot of devices are on 2G networks for M2M and telematics applications, and there are still a lot on 3G and 4G.
While there is growing consensus around NB-IoT, to get there he said we need to start working with the technologies now: “I believe having Cat M, LTE-M and NB-IoT are the best choices today, but the future is NB-IoT.”
Carlos Carazo, CTO of IoT at Telefonica (pictured, second from right), agreed there can be some confusion with all the IoT network options, but noted each technology has different use cases.
The operator is now pushing new networks, using both NB-IoT and LTE-M, dedicated to IoT. It deployed nearly 20 IoT networks around the world.
Carazo said LTE-M, which covers many use cases including mobility and voice, is more suitable to replace IoT services currently running on 2G networks, which are being shut down in many countries.
NB-IoT, on the other hand, is an enabler of use cases requiring deep coverage and long battery life, which current cellular technology can’t provide.
Sandy Verma, senior director of global strategy and solutions for IoT at AT&T (pictured, second from left), said the big advantage of LTE-M is the wide range of use cases supported, covering high- and low-bandwidth uses as well as those requiring voice.
AT&T invested heavily in LTE-M in the US, with plans to deploy in Mexico by the end of the year.
Carazo said many regulators and tax authorities approach IoT and M2M in the same way they address mobile subscribers, applying activation and value added taxes to each user or connection.
“IoT networks will support millions of devices, so having the same tax structure can prevent the business from going.”
He gave the example of Brazil, where tax stands at about $9 per connection: “That could be the total value of an IoT connected device for two years. There’s also a $6 fee the second year. The business case won’t work, because regulations aren’t adapted to low ARPU devices.”
Three 3GPP-licensed technologies – NB-IoT, EC-GSM-IOT and LTE-M – are claimed to cover all LPWA use cases. LTE-M is sometimes referred to as LTE CatM1. Rival proprietary technologies using unlicensed spectrum including Sigfox, LoRa and RPMA (from Ingenu) have enjoyed earlier entry to market and racked up commercial deals. However, NB-IoT and LTE-M are gaining traction in Asia.