LoRa Looks to Leverage Options Before NB-IoT Proliferates
Earlier this year, U.S. cellular giant AT&T launched narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) connectivity nationally. The move was the latest evidence that cellular technologies are inching closer to becoming viable connectivity options for low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) IoT deployments.
How cellular IoT connections will impact the rest of the LPWAN market is a story that will play out over the next half-decade or so. The cellular industry’s own GSM Association forecasted that there would be 2.5 billion cellular IoT connections by 2025, with about 1.9 billion of them LPWAN connections. AT&T’s move and other NB-IoT launches in the last year or so by a variety of operators finally may manifest a long-anticipated challenge to the status quo in the LPWAN IoT market for enterprise deployments. The months ahead could prove to be a formative time for other LPWAN connectivity technologies, in particular for Long Range spread spectrum technology (LoRA), perceived by many to have top market share among private enterprise LPWAN deployments.
That notion is not lost on companies backing LoRa. “We believe we’re getting close to an inflection point in the market for LoRa and LPWAN in general,” said Lee Carter, principal at Momenta Ventures. “It’s a small pie now, but it will soon be much bigger.” Momenta Ventures is a venture capital firm thar launched the LPWAN Ecosystem Fund to invest in companies working with LPWAN technology, specifically LoRa.
Recent market research from Global Market Insights backs up that observation, suggesting the worldwide LPWAN market was worth a modest $1.5 billion last year. The analysis anticipates, however, the market will zoom to $65 billion by 2025, representing a compound annual growth rate of more than 60%. LoRaWANs, the standardized wide-area network architectures built on LoRa technology, now account for 50% of the market. That’s more than any other technology, according to that report, but NB-IoT is forecast to claim more than 30% of market share by 2025.
“This is an important time for companies working with LoRa to gain ground in the market and show their use cases,” Carter said. “There is a lot of stake-planting right now.”
Momenta is trying to build energy around LoRa not only through its ecosystem fund but also through events like its LoRaWAN Startup Challenge. That event will award winners new funding. Each contest finalist will also obtain a membership in the LoRa Alliance, a group established in 2015 that now has more than 500 member companies.
So, what can LoRa bring to the table as NB-IoT arrives at the party? For starters, a growing ecosystem. LoRa is still being fed by efforts like Momenta’s Startup Challenge, at the center of which sits the LoRa Alliance, the industry body that created the LoRaWAN network architecture standard.