IoT @ MWC17: What the Silicon Players Were Up To

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

• Where IoT factored into a broad set of vendor messaging at Mobile World Congress 2017, there were diverse messages coming out of various camps: silicon vendors, LPWAN network providers, incumbent telecom vendors, specialist telecom and IT players.

• Major chipset vendors came to MWC17 ready to talk up their progress, most of which seemed to focus on automotive use cases, differentiators beyond connectivity and connectivity beyond NB-IoT.

IoT is a big topic, dominating many discussions around the future of wireless networks and telecom service providers.

It wasn’t surprising, then, that it was a major topic of discussion at MWC this year. Likewise, given the broad reach of IoT use cases and the broad set of players in the IoT ecosystem, it wasn’t surprising to see different parts of the market show up with their own stories. A look at the announcements from various segments of the market – silicon vendors, LPWAN network providers, incumbent telecom vendors, specialist telecom and IT players – helps to illustrate the stories they showed up to tell.
While not exhaustive, the table below recaps the announcements released by major silicon vendors at (or in the general timeframe of) MWC. While every vendor showed up to tell its own story, a number of clear themes emerged.

Cars Rule. While the depth of focus on automotive-related use cases varied – from Qualcomm’s all out blitz, to Altair’s more limited mention – most everyone on the silicon front came to MWC ready to talk about cars. Given the processing and connectivity needed by these giant mobile computers (even before they go autonomous), the opportunity is huge and one that everyone needs to have a strategy for addressing. There’s also another angle here: Where IoT is essentially about diverse vertical use cases, automotive is a natural fit for anyone trying to drive wide area wireless connectivity given the coverage and capacity demands (and their critical nature).

Silicon vs. Solutions. No different than LPWAN networks requiring solutions to run on them, chipsets on their own don’t yield workable IoT applications. They require operating systems and application-specific hardware. They need to be built into modules. They need to be spec’d early on by vendors building those solutions and applications. Ideally, for optimal performance, all of these components would be tightly integrated. At the extreme, this helps to explain Intel’s $15.3 billion bid to buy Mobileye. While much less headline-grabbing (though more tightly aligned with the Mobile World Congress timing), it’s the same rationale behind Qualcomm’s Android Things support, Intel’s LIQD program or Sequans’ work with everyone from Huawei to STMicroelectronics.

NB-IoT vs. Everything Else. Building off the buzz of Mobile World Congress 2016, the 2017 edition should have been a major coming out party for NB-IoT. You wouldn’t know it from following the news of the silicon players. Yes, IoT specialist Sequans launched its Monarch SX SoC including support for NB-IoT and Altair launched the ALT1250 chip with NB-IoT support as well. But Intel barely talked up connectivity, and Qualcomm largely ignored NB-IoT, announcing LTE support in CBRS and a tri-mode SoC including Bluetooth Low Energy, dual-band WiFi and 802.15.4 support (along with automotive use cases supported by 802.11ad). And you could argue that any new product announcement was dwarfed by evidence of real world traction and product certifications focused on Cat-1 (mostly) or Cat-M. Does this point to a lack of widespread interest among service providers in NB-IoT? It’s not clear. Given the variety of potential IoT use cases, certifying a variety of products (including some that support voice, unlike NB-IoT) makes sense. And, when an NB-IoT pioneer like Huawei chooses to work with Sequans to build modules, the implication of a slow-to-develop NB-IoT ecosystem is hard to ignore – pushing many operators (for example, those in North America) to choose Cat-M as their near-term cellular IoT focus. That makes 2017 a critical, but potentially awkward year for NB-IoT. The technology needs to quickly ramp up its momentum and ecosystem while also proving its value over other technologies – cellular and non-cellular LPWAN. That’s a potentially tall order.

Vendor

Announcement

Altair Altair and Geotab team up to develop LTE-enabled automotive telematics devices.
Altair Altair’s Cat-1 IoT chipset certified for operation on T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network.
Altair Altair introduces the ALT1250, the most advanced and integrated narrowband CAT-M1 and NB1 cellular IoT chip.
Intel Intel to Acquire Mobileye
Intel What Do ‘Superheroes,’ Driverless Cars and 5G Have in Common?
Intel Intel and Ericsson Launch 5G Innovators Initiative with Honeywell, GE and the University of California Berkeley
Intel Intel and AT&T Dramatically Accelerate IoT Time to Market
Intel Transforming the 5G Network Edge: More Power, Performance and Intelligence
Qualcomm Qualcomm and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Conduct Trials Utilizing 802.11ad Multi-gigabit Wi-Fi for Racecar Data Communications
Qualcomm Qualcomm Drive Data Platform Powers TomTom’s Plans to Crowdsource High-Definition Mapping Data for Autonomous Driving
Qualcomm Qualcomm and LG Bring 5G and Cellular-V2X Communications Into Vehicles
Qualcomm GE, Nokia and Qualcomm Unveil First Private LTE-based Trial Network Customized for Industrial IoT
Qualcomm Qualcomm First to Announce Support for Android Things OS on 4G LTE Processors
Qualcomm Qualcomm Announces the First Commercially Sampling Tri-mode System-on-Chip with Bluetooth Low Energy 5, Dual band Wi-Fi, 802.15.4 Connectivity for IoT Devices
Qualcomm Nokia, Alphabet’s Access Group and Qualcomm showcase first live demo of a private LTE network over CBRS shared spectrum providing a 360° race car experience
Sequans Sequans’ LTE Cat 1 Chipset Platform Certified for VoLTE on T-Mobile’s Network
Sequans Huawei Selects Sequans for New Family of LTE for IoT Modules
Sequans Sequans and Orion Labs Partner to Develop First LTE-enabled Wearable with Monarch LTE-M Chip
Sequans Sequans Introduces Monarch SX: LTE-M/NB-IoT System-on-Chip for Integrated IoT Devices
Sequans Sequans Collaborates with STMicroelectronics on Turnkey LTE-M IoT Design Kit
Sequans Sequans and Telefónica Complete First Live LTE Cat M1 Data Call in Europe

 

About Peter Jarich
Peter is Vice President for the Current Analysis Consumer and Infrastructure services. Peter and his analyst team monitor and evaluate activities in the markets for Consumer Services and Devices, Digital Media, Fixed Access, IP Services, Mobile Access, and Transport and Routing Infrastructure, Telecom Vendor Services, and overall coverage of the Mobile Ecosystem.

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