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  1. Hardware
August 17, 2015

IoT cellular networks need to scale or risk wireless takeover

Smart cellular networks will have to scale in order to offer a seamless and strong IoT internet network.

By Joao Lima

Specifically designed wireless networks are increasingly becoming a direct competitor to cellular networks in the IoT space.

Common worldwide wireless standards and the lack of ability by cellular networks to scale ahead of market demand is leading technologies like WiFi to become more widely adopted, according to experts.

Natalie Duffield, CEO at provider of wireless technologies intechnologyWiFi, told CBR: "Unlike cellular networks, WiFi is ready now to connect billions of IoT devices to each other, to the Internet and to the billions of computing devices and consumer electronics already in use.

"Its easy scalability also means that its service will not falter, provided it is properly maintained, as demand increases."

Duffield added that cellular networks will have to scale exponentially to thrive in the IoT ecosystem. By scaling, these networks will also be able to "deal with the ever-growing challenge of ensuring that they can always provide a seamless, strong Internet network, especially in areas with a high concentration of connected devices".

Despite the strong penetration of wireless technologies in the IoT market, there is no simple answer to which type of network better serves an IoT ecosystem, according to Olivier Pauzet, VP Market Strategy at Sierra Wireless.

Pauzet explained to CBR that "cellular networks do feature some important advantages, especially for large-scale IoT deployments".

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"Cellular networks are standard, non-proprietary technologies with an existing global infrastructure, enabling interoperability and facilitating global deployments.

"The ecosystem is large and mature, with multiple network operators and technology vendors in every country, ensuring longevity and healthy competition.

"[And that] Cellular technologies are proven and secure. They have already been used for years for sensitive applications such as payment and public safety."

However, not all experts agree that cellular and wireless networks are direct competitors as Robin Duke-Woolley, CEO at IoT and M2M analyst firm Beecham Research explained to CBR.

"The new wireless technologies are substantially complementary to cellular rather than competitive with it."

Woolley explained that wireless technologies have lower costs associated with them and have longer range but also have much lower data rates. "Some are substantially one-way, making them ideal for connecting low data rate sensors, for example, which are not practical for current cellular to cover in large numbers."

He added: "We see a future market where many more devices can be economically connected, some using new wireless technologies, some using new cellular technologies. The result will be many more connected devices working together in larger M2M/IoT solutions."

The IoT market is expected to reach $7.1 trillion by 2020, up from $1.9 trillion in 2013, according to IDC.

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