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Digi International Predictions 2020: The future of IoT connectivity

VMblog Predictions 2020 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2020.  Read them in this 12th annual series exclusive.

By Harald Remmert, Sr. Director, Research & Innovation at Digi International

The future of IoT connectivity

We are in the midst of an IoT revolution, big changes coming our way with increased network agility, greater capacity to deploy, automation and further security both for devices and data. As networks and platforms evolve, we will bear witness to the potential they bring, from enabling millions of devices simultaneously to leveraging actionable data that will improve business processes.

Throughout 2020 and beyond, organizations will need to pay attention to the trendy 5G rollout and how they can start planning for their future applications, the evolution of LTE platforms and Private LTE benefits, and upcoming new smart cities use cases.

Building blocks for 5G with LTE

As we look ahead into this new decade, 5G will continue to blow away expectations with global coverage expected to reach between 55 and 65 percent by the end of 2025. As we move into 2020, mobile network operators will continue to build out their sub-6 and mmWave deployments, enabling customer within a 5G coverage area to benefit from multi-gigabit speeds and cut the cord in favor of going all-wireless with Fixed Wireless Access (FWA).

Although, 5G will bring amazing use cases, organizations have to balance looking ahead with keeping their feet on the ground. In developing their strategies, they must focus on taking advantage of current investments and infrastructure to support the first steps into 5G. 4G LTE and LPWAN connectivity options, for example, won't disappear overnight; conversely, Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) in the 5G sub-6 spectrum will enable faster rollout of 5G and extend the life of current LTE networks by placing them on the same spectrum.

Organizations and vendors alike will therefore need to look at which networks make the most sense from a business perspective in the present as well as how to futureproof those investments. To that end, cellular connectivity leaders will offer solutions on the road to 5G that can provide value with Gigabit-class LTE today while also readying for 5G when it makes commercial sense.

Private LTE on the rise

Although the 2019 conversation around connectivity was mostly focused on 5G, 2020 will see other types of networks making their way into the enterprise.

In September 2019, the FCC approved Citizens Broadcast Radio System (CBRS), a form of Private LTE in the US, for initial commercial deployment (ICD) and pegged June 2020 for priority access licenses. Unique and exciting when it comes to private LTE is that it is designed to dynamically allocate shared spectrum. Its potential to become the new standard for allocation and sharing of all cellular radio spectrum in the US and beyond could be truly transformational.

The FCC is reviewing the ICD results and is expected to approve CBRS for General Authorized Access (GAA), which will allow managed service providers, municipalities, businesses and carriers to leverage private LTE connectivity even in areas that do not receive public cellular coverage. This flexibility combined with more security, control, capacity and a higher quality of service will see private LTE networks deployed in every type of setting utilizing IoT, from oil and gas fields to rural areas and big cities."

Smart city infrastructures - maturing and evolving

We are leaving traditional wired/wireless technologies in the past as we advance on the digital transformation journey. Organizations now need faster time-to-market to increase productivity, compliance or efficiency gains. 

One instance of this network maturation is the growth of cellular Low-Power Wide Area Networking (LPWAN) technology, like LTE-M and NB-IoT. LPWANs are now a strong building block for IoT applications in traffic management, smart parking, utilities, lighting, and asset tracking, but in 2020, second generation cellular LPWAN chipsets will appear. These are smaller, lower cost, and consume less power, making them capable of further fueling the potentially billions of IoT devices.

Additionally, thanks to disruptor technologies like 5G and Wi-Fi 6, smart cities will mature, bringing time and cost savings, as well as better services to the growing number of citizens in metropolitan areas. This combination of next-generation LPWAN, cellular and wi-fi will allow governmental departments to incorporate technology into their budget and further the adoption of devices for IoT applications in traffic management, smart parking, environmental sensing, utilities, lighting and asset tracking.

An exciting wave of IoT applications is on the horizon, but as exciting as it is, the first step is knowing your specific industry and business needs. From there, whether you choose to maintain your current LTE deployments, expand into 5G or jump to Private LTE, all organizations will have to weigh the benefits of each technology adopted and the fit in their digital transformation roadmap.


About the Author

Harald Remmert, Sr. Director, Research & Innovation at Digi International

harald remmert 

Harald Remmert is an accomplished technology leader in the IoT ecosystem with over 20 years of experience in product strategy, design, development, testing and engineering leadership with a proven track-record of introducing successful products to the market. Harald has deep technical knowledge in mixed hardware and software product development. In his current role at Digi he's on the lookout for new technologies and tools such as 5G, Edge Compute, Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence to innovate and solve business problems more efficiently.

Published Thursday, January 09, 2020 7:35 AM by David Marshall
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