SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Narrowband-IoT version of LTE for the Internet of Things took a big leap forward this week at the Mobile World Congress with reports of new chips, software, and service offerings. NB-IoT is predicted to take the lion’s share of cellular IoT connections over the next few years, growing in parallel with LTE M1 and a host of non-cellular, long-range nets led by LoRa.
Sequans Communications announced its first chip optimized for NB-IoT, leapfrogging Qualcomm. Startup Riot Micro teamed up with a software developer to show a dual-mode (NB-IoT/LTE M1) network, and Qorvo rounded out its portfolio of low-band RF chips for all low-power wide-area networks.
LPWANs will be the world’s fastest-growing connectivity technology through 2025, supporting 4 billion IoT devices by that date, according to market watcher ABI Research. For its part, Qorvo said that it saw 20% growth in the market for low-band products in 2017.
China Mobile reported at MWC that it has launched NB-IoT networks in 346 cities using chipsets from five companies — Huawei, Mediatek, Qualcomm, RDA, and ZTE. The carrier has approved for use on its network 15 NB-IoT modules using the chips, according to a report from TechInsights analysts at the event.
Goodix, a chip vendor in China known for touchscreen controllers and fingerprint sensors, announced that it will sell NB-IoT chips, using IP from its acquisition of Germany’s CommSolid GmbH. It showed a live demo of its technology on the Vodafone network in Barcelona, said TechInsights.
Separately, Cisco reported on trials with China Unicom of an NB-IoT management system, the Cisco Jasper Control Center for NB-IoT. It helps automate control for a wide range of applications from agriculture and building automation to smart metering, parking, fire control, and street lighting.
“We expect to have more than 100 million NB-IoT connections on our network by 2020,” said Xiaotian Chen, general manager of China Unicom’s IoT group, speaking in a Cisco press statement.
China’s other major carrier, China Telecom, gave an update on its aggressive deployments of NB-IoT at a U.S. version of the MWC event last year. The three China carriers are racing to carry out government mandates to deploy cellular IoT.
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