Japan’s SoftBank is gearing up for an onslaught of Internet of Things (IoT) traffic by first deploying a low power wide area (LPWA) network using the LoRaWAN protocol. The company said that network will be deployed in the 2016 fiscal year.
In addition, SoftBank will launch a narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) network, which is a standardized cellular technology that is part of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project’s (3GPP) LTE Release 13 and a LTE CAT-M network, another standardized cellular technology. LTE CAT-M will deliver about 1 Mb/s speeds in a 1.4 MHz channel while NB-IoT will deliver about 40 kb/s speeds in a 200 kHz channel.
The wireless operator didn’t provide a timeline for its launch of the NB-IoT or CAT-M.
SoftBank said that by deploying different types of technologies, like LoRa and NB-IoT as well as WiFi, it will be able to offer IoT solutions that are geared toward different customer preferences.
It’s no surprise that SoftBank decided to go with LoRa. The carrier is a founding member of the LoRa Alliance, which is geared toward building to the LoRa ecosystem.
SoftBank isn’t the only operator using LoRa. KPN also has launched a LoRa network in the Netherlands and SK Telecom and Orange have both said they will build nationwide LoRa networks. Cisco supports LoRa and has built an industrial IoT product line around the protocol.
Momentum is also building around the NB-IoT standard. Vodafone has said it will commercially launch an NB-IoT network next year. Singapore’s Mobile One cellular operator has said it will launch an NB-IoT network in the first half of 2017.
In the U.S., operators Verizon and AT&T have both recently made inroads around CAT-M. Verizon said it will deploy a CAT-M network by year-end, and AT&T has said it will pilot CAT-M technology in the San Francisco area in November.
Although the connectivity layer of the IoT ecosystem is still fairly fragmented, wireless operators are starting to rally around a handful of cellular standards like NB-IoT and CAT-M coupled with a LPWA protocol.
Gartner estimates the connectivity market for IoT was a $10 billion market in 2015 and will grow more than threefold to $31 billion in 2020.