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Will NB-IoT Survive?

Back in March this year, NTT Docomo announced that they are switching off their NB-IoT network due to not enough demand but will continue to support LTE-M and Cat 1.


This news have started a lot of discussions, as you would expect, about the future of NB-IoT. From the standards point of view, IoT is going ahead full steam with both LTE-M and NB-IoT having been enhanced for 5G in Release-16 to support massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC). This slide from Qualcomm illustrates it well

A recent article from Mobile World Live had a heading, "China Mobile migrates IoT connections off 2G". While reading the article, you would get a feeling that China Mobile will stop supporting the 2G IoT (more like M2M) devices. But again this might not be that straightforward as I explain in this tweet.


China Mobile had 884 million IoT customers at the end of 2019. According to CounterPointTR, some 95 million were on NB-IoT so nearly 750 million+ will be on GSM / 2G. It would take a very long time to migrate these to NB-IoT.


As Matt Hatton from Transforma Insights points out, the technology is good enough but needs a long term business case to be viable.


Tom Rebbeck from Analysys Mason highlights similar points. It is too early to call it quits. Docomo had their reasons for closing down their NB-IoT networks but there are many other operators that still support the technology wholeheartedly and most of them will try their best to make it a success.

Finally, here is another tweet by Tom, highlighting the market for IoT operators. You can also get a report here.


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