Market Insight

2019 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona - Cellular IoT industry facing many opportunities and challenges

March 10, 2019

Christian Kim Christian Kim Senior Analyst, IoT & Connectivity
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At MWC Barcelona in late February, in addition to the highly covered 5G standard, the NB-IoT and the Cellular Vehicle-to-Vehicle (C-V2X) standards also demonstrated significant progress in the cellular IoT space.

  • At the 8th Mobile IoT Summit - an annual event held on the eve of MWC - Huawei estimated the global NB-IoT chipset shipment during 2018 was 30 million units. The company provided a forecast that global NB-IoT chipset shipments in 2019 will be 200 million units. Huawei also disclosed it expects to ship 100 million NB-IoT chipsets in 2019.
  • At an MWC event, “Connecting the Mobility World with 5G-V2X”, 5GAA - an advocacy group for the cellular V2X technology - disclosed it now has 110+ members around the world – less than three years after its inception. At the event, Harman announced it would include C-V2X connectivity in all its telematics units for 2021.

IHS Markit Analysis:

In less than two years after the Chinese government’s public announcement to support the NB-IoT standard, more than 20 million NB-IoT nodes are deployed in China. In China, a single NB-IoT module is now sold at $3.00, a 50% reduction from $6.00, in just one year. The price reduction is mainly due to cost-benefit from volume production and the subsidies from the mobile operators and the government. The reduced module price combined with backing by the government and industry support are expected to further fuel the NB-IoT adoption in China.

Despite the impressive shipment numbers and forecasts, the NB-IoT market adoption has faced several obstacles. Outside of China, the market adoption of the NB-IoT standard has been slow. Currently, it is estimated over 90% of global NB-IoT connections are in China. Also, after excluding a few applications - smart meters, smart parking and shared motorcycle applications - IHS Markit has seen very few use cases that have the potential to add millions of connections. Asset tracking of pallets and containers in logistic applications is one of a few NB-IoT use cases with significant growth potential. However, the lack of roaming agreements between national mobile operators has been identified as the limiting factor for the growth of the NB-IoT connections in multi-national logistics applications.

Harman is the industry leader in the connected car space. As of 3Q 2018, the company estimated it owned 20% of the market share in the automotive infotainment head unit market. Also, earlier in January at CES, Ford announced that it plans to add C-V2X connectivity to all its new cars and trucks in the United States by 2022. Harman and Ford’s announcements to add C-V2X connectivity to their products ensure the connected car industry will be able to initially jump-start the commercial adoption of the C-V2X standard. Both companies are hoping their decision to aggressively adopt C-V2X technology will enable them to enjoy the first mover advantage in the connected car market.

Similar to the NB-IoT standard, C-V2X standard is facing several barriers. The vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology still has two competing standards: Cellular Vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) and Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC). Although C-V2X has gained support in recent years, DSRC is also backed by well-established companies in the connected car industry – NXP, General Motors and Toyota, to name a few. In addition to the competing standard, C-V2X currently does not have a dedicated spectrum in the United States. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is in the middle of reviewing the 5GAA’s petition to grant them access in the 5.9GHz frequency band. The FCC’s decision on the 5GAA’s petition will be the key factor that will determine the future outlook of the C-V2X adoption in the United States market.

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