For years, NB-IoT has been discussed as the technology that will drive mass-adoption of IoT. In fact, this was the topic of our recent report with Enterprise IoT Insights. And it’s clear why it’s such a hot topic. NB-IoT promises to meet the requirements of IoT use cases that can’t be served by other technologies.
However, as the market has matured over the last few years, 2022 is setting itself up to be the year of NB-IoT. With more NB-IoT networks around the world, a higher number of roamers moving between them, and even greater demand for IoT among businesses – the stage is set for the technology to thrive.
Why is NB-IoT adoption accelerating?
The main challenge historically has been that there simply wasn’t enough NB-IoT coverage. As of 2021, 120 operators have deployed or commercially launched NB-IoT networks. However, as recently as January 2019, this number was just 78. This was a problem for enterprises looking to domestically deploy devices that rely on NB-IoT. But it was an even bigger problem for those looking to use it in use cases where their devices would have to cross international borders. Fortunately, with operators rapidly rolling out greater NB-IoT coverage, enterprises can now access the infrastructure they need to make their NB-IoT deployments work.
The other major issue has been the challenge of network interoperability, airtime billing, and roaming. Simply, operators didn’t know how to charge enterprises for their NB-IoT connectivity and how this should be adjusted when these devices move between networks. This, however, has also been resolved. Like cellular roaming, NB-IoT has become better standardized and the business model has changed accordingly. Operators can now offer more flexible pricing models to accommodate enterprises, and roaming revenues are more fairly split between visiting and home operators.
NB-IoT needs to be simple
While most of the challenges surrounding NB-IoT have been resolved, there are still some obstacles for enterprises to overcome. Mainly – they want their deployments to be simple. Even with a better-defined roaming framework, international use cases are not always straightforward. For instance, once devices are deployed across the world, businesses need a way to manage and control their devices wherever they are located through a single pane of glass. A global business will require, across all geographies, to consistently configure the mobile services, deploy a coherent business model, and provide a high level of support to their customers.
This is where global communications enablers are playing a role. With their own global NB-IoT network and extensive operator relationships, they can support enterprises in launching their global IoT deployments by providing easy access, everywhere, to the NB-IoT ecosystem. They are a one-stop shop for enterprises’ NB-IoT needs. With a global communications enabler, they don’t need a local partner in every country. They don’t need to do local integrations. And they don’t need to have individual commercial agreements with every operator.
The same is true of managing these deployments. If you’re an enterprise with an NB-IoT fleet with thousands or millions of devices, you need advanced tools to control your connected business across all its countries. You need to manage the lifecycle of your devices along the entire production and deployment journey, you need to control your cost everywhere and turn it into a profitable business model, you need visibility and control on the quality you deliver to your customers everywhere. A global communications enabler becomes your global business enabler.
The NB-IoT opportunity
A lot of effort has gone into making NB-IoT work. In 2021, everything from the networks to the operator agreements and billing has been put in place. Now is the time for enterprises to take their NB-IoT devices and deploy them in global markets. It has taken time, but now is the perfect time for businesses to make the most of the NB-IoT opportunity.