In one of Transforma Insights early blogs, ‘The LPWA space is developing quickly’ (published in 2020), Jim Morrish (co-founder) predicted the immense potential for LPWA (especially in the context of NB-IoT and Sigfox). These LPWA technologies are set to be the dominant connectivity solution for wide-area wireless connected IoT devices by the mid-2020s.
In this blog post we explore the different growth trajectories for LPWA versus the other ‘traditional’ cellular technologies, based on data extracted from the highly granular Transforma Insights IoT Forecast Database.
The total number of LPWA connections, including both cellular 3GPP technologies (NB-IoT, LTE-M and evolutions, under the umbrella term of ‘5G mMTC’) and unlicensed technologies including LoRaWAN and Sigfox, will grow from 698 million in 2022 to 5.2 billion in 2032. With that growth these technologies will overtake traditional cellular technologies (comprising 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G non-mMTC) in 2025. In terms of annual unit shipments, LPWA had already exceeded regular cellular in 2022, with 246 million shipments vs 207 million.
We should consider that the majority (between 50% and 60% over the forecast period) of non-mMTC LPWA technologies, such as LoRaWAN, are deployed in private network scenarios (as are small proportion of 4G and 5G non-mMTC). For public network connections it will take until 2027 for LPWA to exceed traditional cellular.
Even for mobile operators, LPWA will come to dominate connections over the period. The installed base of 5G mMTC technologies will grow from 594 million at the end of 2022 to reach 3.5 billion in 2032, at which point it will account for 57% of all operator connections, up from 28% in 2022, and surpassing regular cellular in 2028. In terms of annual sales, mMTC will exceed non-mMTC in 2024.
LPWA technologies are wide-area connectivity technologies, that have been optimised to support small messages (generally sent infrequently), and in cases where low latency is not a critical requirement. The two key benefits of LPWA are low power consumption (with a battery life of up to 10 years for connected devices) and low-cost connectivity hardware.
LPWA technologies are used in smart metering, infrastructure monitoring, security monitoring, connected manhole covers, connected fire hydrants, and connected post boxes, and more.
The main LPWA technology contenders are LoRa, 3GPP (cellular) standards NB-IoT and LTE-M, and Sigfox.
A networking protocol designed to wirelessly connect battery-operated devices to the IoT in campus, regional, national, and global networks. While it is ideally suitable for private network deployment, it now focuses equally on wide-area use cases.
The mobile industry has focused on two complementary licensed 3GPP standards: NB-IoT and LTE-M. Between them, LTE-M has a higher throughput with lower latency and is better suited for non-stationary devices, but it is NB-IoT which can realistically achieve the 10-year battery lifespan.
Founded in 2010, Sigfox operated networks under its own brand and licenced the technology to Sigfox Network Operators (SNOs) in individual country territories. Sigfox actually created the LPWA space with its vision of billions of ultra-low-cost devices connected worldwide but went bankrupt in 2022 and was eventually acquired by UnaBiz which is now reviving the company.
For more on the LPWA technologies, see our Hot Topics page related to Low Power Wide Area Networks.
To conclude, the number of LPWA connections will soon overtake those for traditional cellular technologies (2G, 3G, 4G and 5G non-mMTC). By 2025, there will be 1.59 billion LPWA connections and 1.51 Cellular billion connections. In the long term, while the number of cellular connections will continue to see solid growth to reach 2.6 billion by 2032, LPWA technologies, with 5.2 billion connections, will dwarf them. Even considering just the mMTC technologies, their 3.5 billion connections will exceed that of the other technologies.
If you are interested in the growth of the global IoT market and the opportunity over the next 10 years, join the team from Transforma Insights for our webinar ‘Are We Nearly There Yet?: Annual Update On Transforma Insights’ IoT Market Forecasts’ to hear about which applications and verticals will dominate in future, which technologies will be used, which countries will see the biggest growth and what is the revenue opportunity.