The ten largest mobile network operators claim a combined 76% of the cellular IoT market, according to a new study from Berg Insight, and Chinese carriers are leading the way.
Those top ten companies connected a combined active base of 407 million cellular connections at the end of last year, Berg reported, with China Mobile accounting for a staggering 150 million IoT connections. Vodafone was the No. 2 carrier with 59 million connections, outpacing China Unicom’s 50 IoT devices, while AT&T (36 million) and China Telecom (28 million) rounded out the top five.
Deutsche Telecom, SoftBank/Sprint, Verizon and Telefonica also ranked among the top 10, each with roughly 15 million to 20 million cellular IoT subscribers.
The market for cellular-based IoT connections is growing at an annual clip of between 15% and 30%, Berg reported.
“The Chinese mobile operators achieved tremendous volume growth in 2017, driven by accelerating uptake of cellular IoT in the domestic market”, says Tobias Ryberg, Senior Analyst at Berg Insight and author of the report. “China Mobile is believed to have reached 200 million cellular IoT connections at the end of 2017.”
Chinese carriers are gaining ground thanks largely to demand for IoT services in their home markets, while Vodafone and AT&T have become leaders in their respective territories due largely to serving multinational clients around the world. But the booming market is creating opportunities for multiple carriers in a variety of scenarios.
And while Chinese operators are leading the way in overall connections, Western service providers have an edge in generating revenues, according to Berg. The firm said AT&T, Verizon and Vodafone are positioned to generate more than $1 billion in IoT revenues in 2018.
“The main strategy for growing IoT revenues is vertical plays in major application areas,” Ryberg said. “Verizon, Vodafone and others have made significant acquisitions in the connected vehicle space to extend their product portfolios. AT&T and Deutsche Telekom develop dedicated practices for smart cities and many operators seek to play leading roles in national projects in areas like smart metering and electronic road charging.”