Click here to read part 1: Low Power WAN Technologies for IoT: Build, Buy or Partner?
Apples to Apples Comparisons Criteria
When selecting the LPWAN strategy several aspects need to be taken into account. Below I have listed the ones that I believe should be considered and compared to optimize the addressable market and ensure an optimal choice for now and in the future.
Advanced Radio Technology
Low energy consumption
In order to have the most commercial impact, adaptability to different use cases is crucial. In cases where all of these criteria are not met, then the addressable markets become more limited.
In addition to the technological criteria above, to follow are many of the features required to handle the highest number of use cases:
Legal and Financial
Once the technical prerequisites and market demands can be met, there are the contractually binding financial and legal aspects that need to be considered while working with the supplier of choice. As the IoT is at the top of its hype-cycle, according to Gartner, and loads of entrepreneurial and small companies are entering the market many challenging financial and prohibitive contractual frameworks are being proposed.
CRUCIAL CONTRACTUAL TERMS AND CONDITIONS
Upfront exclusivity fees are limiting the funds available for market development and sales. Moreover the IoT can be best characterized as collaborative and open source where possible.
Build, Buy or Partner Considerations
As the market rapidly progresses there are multiple models that are emerging:
Network providers and Startups are signing as market exclusive partners with SigFox (who has been backed by several MNOs). To date, however, the network partners have primarily not been MNOs and the actual user base is at bestin the hundreds of thousands connected devices.
nWave’s typical market is private networks for smart city projects and other project based deployments, but are also targeting partnerships with MNOs and have recently announced a smart city inititive in Denmark.
MNOs are rolling out and operating their own networks, primarily based on LoRa, as evidenced by recent announcements by SK Telekom (interestingly also an investor in SigFox), Proximus, Swisscom, Bouygues and KPN. As millions of LoRa sensors are already in use around the world and hundreds of eco system partners develop sensors and LoRa centric solutions, Semtech is clearly in the lead position.
MNOs are partnering with new market entrants (in some cases MNO backed) based on either LoRa or Weightless.
Some startups are also entering the game deploying end-to-end networks of their own, notably Senet in the USA, deploying LoRa for both its own tank monitoring business and as a public network for other partners, resellers and MNOs. No doubt others will follow.
The activities in each of these areas are too numerous to mention here as new developments and entrants are happening weekly, all one needs to do is watch the news releases, Linked IN, or the web sites of SigFox, the LoRa Alliance, and Weightless.org.
As an example, just this week Weightless announced a partnership with Taiwanese provider M2Comm to develop Weightless-P for a more advanced and robust, 2-way LPWAN protocol to be released early next year.
Firstly, there is lots of conflicting information about these technologies as each group is proliferating their own views on themselves and in some cases refuting the others’ and as such it is important to note that this piece is meant to put the facts on the table as investigated by and reported to me, and used as a basis for deeper investigation. As with all new technologies, real world comparisons will become apparent as the networks themselves evolve and head to head benchmarking data becomes more widely known. While LoRa appears to be the most fully formed and flexible technology to date with the largest ecosystem, I don’t believe that this is a “VHS vs Betamax” story and that each of these technologies will find their place and use cases in the market, especially with such heavy weight and investments thrown behind all of them. The real questions always comes down to the reality of the ‘billions’ of IoT devices and the monetization, financial viability and use cases of that story. We’ve lived through the long tail of Machine to Machine, and what a long tail it has been, and as such we have started to see some real market value created. IoT is a new story, or at least a continuation of the old one, and certainly more money has been spent than made on one side, while on the other the promise of real socio-economic value seems both reasonable and attainable, but only through these new technologies and continued investment in them as well as open and honest collaboration and “coopetition”, as it were. I, for one, am watching with keen interest!
Dan McDuffie is the former CEO of Wyless, a leading IoT Managed Services provider and today is a strategy consultant on M2M, IoT and Mobility for both Enterprises and Private Equity and a frequent technology writer and public speaker.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/danmcduffie Twitter: @DanBMcDuffie
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