NB-IoT and LTE-M will be a key part of 5G networks, claims GSMA

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NB-IoT and LTE-M will play an integral role in forthcoming 5G networks, underpinning IoT networks on a massive scale, the GSMA has claimed.

The trade body has issued a report exploring how cellular LPWAN technology will fit into the next generation technology. It said 5G networks will comprise critical communications, enhanced broadband and massive IoT.

It is the latter where licensed IoT standards will come into play. Operators such as Deutsche Telekom, Orange and Vodafone have been deploying NB-IoT and LTE-M in recent years to support the likes of smart meters and smart logistics.

According to the latest GSMA figures, 24 operators have commercially launched 48 cellular IoT networks across both kinds of technology. By 2025, there will be 3.1 billion cellular IoT connections, including 1.8 billion licensed LPWAN-enabled devices.

However, Juniper Research warned earlier this year that unlicensed technology such as LoRa could prove to be more lucrative to operators because it is cheaper to deploy.

Alex Sinclair, Chief Technology Officer, GSMA, said: “While people often associate 5G with super-fast mobile broadband speeds, it will also serve a variety of use cases often with diametrically opposed requirements such as low data rates and long battery life as with the case of Mobile IoT.

“Licensed NB-IoT and LTE-M networks are already delivering trusted connectivity today to millions of devices around the world, and these networks will continue to be a fundamental component of our 5G future ushering in an era of massive IoT.”

3GPP will standardise Release 15 in June, which will include NB-IoT and LTE-M as 5G mobile standards, helping them to coexist with other 3GPP technology and safeguarding their longer-term health, GSMA added.

At Mobile Europe and European Communications' recent IoT in Telecoms event, executives from Orange and Proximus both agreed offering a diverse range of LPWAN technologies was essential to meet the differing demands of customers.