Cellular connectivity for IoT devices has been available for over 10 years since the days of 2G and 3G. For this type of connectivity, the limitations were available network bandwidth and IoT device battery life. Addressing these challenges fostered growth of other non-cellular connectivity solutions: better battery life and lower connectivity costs. Still, new concerns emerged, including coverage problems in cities, cross-border use, and most importantly a lack of secure connectivity for critical infrastructure services such as utility, transportation and industrial use cases.
In the Middle East and Africa region, 4G networks grew rapidly since 2012, and so IoT use cases evolved to include fleet management, asset tracking of goods, and safe-city use cases.
Cellular connectivity using both 2G and LTE became the dominant solution for IoT because it solved coverage problems in cities and nations, roaming across borders, and ensured secure end-to-end connectivity. Cellular connectivity experienced high growth in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
The limitations for 4G were IoT device costs, battery life and costs of connectivity. This led to the introduction of NB-IoT and Cat-M1 technologies which provided:
– Power efficiency for IoT devices: This addressed the potential problem of having to change the batteries on massive numbers of IoT devices every few months.
– Cost-saving: This has been achieved through cheaper chipsets and the low bandwidth (20 – 100Kbps) that they provide.
– Reliability: Cellular networks run on licensed spectrum and security with telecom-grade standards.