A report from the IoT market research firm Berg Insight says that the global number of cellular IoT subscribers increased by 40 per cent during 2019 to reach 1.56 billion. Growth was driven by strong uptake across the main markets for IoT solutions comprising China, North America and Western Europe.
Due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the growth in IoT connections is anticipated to be halved in 2020 compared to the previous year. By 2024, Berg Insight now projects that there will be 4.15 billion IoT devices connected to cellular networks worldwide.
The top ten mobile operators reported a combined active base of 1.33 billion cellular IoT connections at the end of 2019, accounting for 85 percent of total connections. China Mobile is the world’s largest provider of cellular IoT connectivity services with an estimated 683 million cellular IoT connections. China Unicom and China Telecom ranked second and third with 190 million and 157 million connections respectively.
Vodafone ranked first among the Western operators and fourth overall with 97 million connections, followed by AT&T with 66 million in fifth place. Verizon, Deutsche Telekom and Telefónica had in the range 24–46 million cellular IoT connections. Orange and Telenor were the last players in the top ten with about 17 million and 16 million connections respectively. Year-on-year growth rates for the mentioned Western operators were in the span 10–30 per cent.
“Vodafone and AT&T are consolidating their positions as regional market leaders in Europe and North America respectively, serving multinational clients on a global basis”, says Fredrik Stalbrand, Senior Analyst at Berg Insight. The two operators hold a strong position in the automotive OEM segment and are longstanding partners in the space, working together to provide a consistent service for joint customers.
In terms of revenues, IoT connectivity services still account for around 1 percent of total revenues for most operator groups. Berg Insight’s analysis of the IoT business KPIs released by mobile operators in different parts of the world suggests that global IoT connectivity revenues increased by around 17 permcent during 2019, while the monthly APRU dropped by 23 pe rcent. “Mobile operators looking to increase IoT revenues increasingly focus on adding cloud services and security capabilities on top of their connectivity offering to capture a larger share of the market”, concludes Stalbrand.