Every quarter the Transforma Insights team tracks how many cellular IoT connections are reported by the mobile network operators (MNOs) around the world. The end year figures are particularly important as they're (a) more accurately reported and (b) critical for how we benchmark the whole year.
At the end of 2021 we estimate that the top 35 operator groups around the world (which must account for close to 99% of connections) recorded a total of 1.73 billion connections, up from 1.39 billion at the end of 2020. The first thing to note is that this 25% growth in 2021 is a strong performance on the back of just 9% growth in 2020. The market has, thankfully, rebounded from the drag effects of Covid in particularly 2020.
Strong growth rates were recorded by China Telecom (50%), Telia (44%), Telekom Austria (37%) and KDDI (37%). The most disappointing results were seen by Softbank (9%), Telenor (9%) and Orange (12%). Most operators score somewhere between 16% and 25% growth.
As usual it is the three Chinese operators that dominate the rankings. As discussed previously, we review and revise the numbers from the operators to try to align them to our view of what counts as an IoT connection. As a result we temper the Chinese figures but they nevertheless account for two-thirds of the global market. We still advise treating the figures with some caution as there are likely still some reasons for considering that the numbers may be over-counting the reality of active devices on the ground. Devices used for initial bootstrapping, for instance, would count towards a total but would not be active for long. We will continue to investigate in 2022.