Ericsson: Short-range IoT set to reach more than 20 billion connected devices by 2026

December 2, 2020

Written by Caio Castro
smartphone and 6G

Short-range IoT connectivity will account for more than half of the connected devices in 2026, an Ericsson study indicates. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, published this week, the number of expected devices using this technology will increase by 92 per cent, from 10.7 billion in 2020 to 20.6 billion.

In terms of growth, another Internet of Things category set to explode is the wide-area IoT, which will see a 235 per cent expansion from 1.8 billion to 6.3 billion devices during the same timeframe.

The short-range network consists of devices connected by unlicensed radio technologies with a typical range of up to 100 meters, according to Ericsson. Examples include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee. On the other hand, the wide-area network is made up of devices using cellular connections or unlicensed low-power technologies, like Sigfox and LoRa (long-range).

The study also forecasts the deployment of massive IoT solutions, like NB-IoT and Cat-M, will follow its current trend in the future. “At the end of 2026, NB-IoT and Cat-M are projected to account for 45 per cent of all cellular IoT connections. Cat-M and NB-IoT follow a smooth evolution path into 5G networks and can continue to be deployed in the same bands as today, even when 5G is introduced,” the report reads.

Through the radio frequencies

IoT devices connected using mobile technologies like LTE and 5G are also set to spread. This category is expected to jump from 1.7 billion machines in 2020 to 5.9 billion in 2026. It is on cellular technologies that most of the use cases for future networks will work, including remote surgery, autonomous vehicles, and smart industry.

And while 5G will increase its pervasiveness, reaching 3.5 billion subscriptions around the world, especially in developed countries, most of the connections will still happen through LTE.

Still, 5G radio frequencies are starting to be allocated and 5G IoT development should not take long, according to Ericsson. “The first 5G NR-capable IoT platforms have recently been released. Modules from several vendors are available, as well as tailored platforms for PCs and advanced wearables. In the second half of 2020 and during 2021, this is expected to expand to include use cases involving personal and commercial vehicles, cameras, industry routers and gaming,” the research explains.

“Such devices will initially support mobile broadband capabilities, but performance is expected to evolve towards time-critical communication capabilities where needed, via software upgrades on devices and networks.”

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