• Incumbent telecom vendors used MWC17 to crystallize their focus on a few key markets like smart city and smart manufacturing, and – for most – expand their IoT portfolios.
• There was a light focus on discussing new IoT technologies and their use cases. With NB-IoT and Cat-M1 buildouts just underway, IoT technology wars played a much less prominent role than at MWC16.
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.
The table below recaps announcements released by incumbent telecom vendors Cisco, Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, Samsung and ZTE at (or leading up to) MWC. Taking a look at their breadth, a number of clear themes emerge.
• Network Equipment Vendors Going Direct. As network equipment vendors make their strategic investments in IoT, the focus for many is converging in key opportunities around smart cities, smart factories and smart utilities. The announcements at MWC17 clarified that in areas with “telecom-like” networking requirements, these vendors are moving forward directly and not through their traditional network operator customers. Ericsson in particular, which has spent the most time amongst its peers in pursuing vertical opportunities, showed success, announcing smart city deals with Istanbul and Dubai government authorities and several smart manufacturing-related deals. The willingness to cut operators out of the deal in key IoT vertical markets will only intensify as other vendors like Nokia and Huawei take an increasingly “platform”-oriented and services-led approach to vertical opportunities.
• Clarifying Cat-M1 and NB-IoT Use Cases. Cellular operators were eager to show that their deployments of Cat-M1 (largely U.S.-based) and NB-IoT (largely Euro-based) were underway; for example, AT&T confirmed it would have Cat-M1 deployed across the U.S. by the end of Q2 2017, while Deutsche Telekom showcased its plans to have NB-IoT networks deployed in eight European countries by the end of 2017. However, overall at MWC17 surprisingly little was said about the two technologies. Having achieved the goal of getting standards finalized and chipsets and modules commercialized in time for deployments just underway, MWC17 represented something of a “breather.” And, at least in the case of NB-IoT, use cases did not advance much from where they were a year ago (note to industry: NB-IoT needs to be about more than just smart parking). Cat-M1 proponents are beginning to better educate the market on some of the attributes of Cat-M1 such as mobility (i.e., IoT modules don’t need to be stationary) and the ability to add voice capabilities to IoT applications. But with both technologies operators are still in the early stages of familiarizing potential customers on its capabilities.
• Contrasting “Platform” Philosophies Emerging? While several vendors, namely Nokia and Huawei expanded their approach in IoT, Cisco Jasper (the name probably says it all) took a markedly different tack at MWC17 by focusing on device connectivity. Nokia’s IMPACT platform presented a comprehensive approach to addressing all aspects of the IoT “platform,” while its WING “network grid” announcement, while not ready for prime time just yet, clearly represented new IoT innovation at MWC17. Huawei took a different, but nonetheless expansive, approach to IoT with the release of its Edge Computing (EC)-IoT solution which combines hardware (terminal modules and edge IoT gateways), software (SDN-based “Agile Controller”) an open cloud platform and services such as remote predictive maintenance and value-added (but largely unspecified) value-added services. Meanwhile, Cisco appears to have put a lot of its broader IoT “portfolio” focus on the backburner since completing the acquisition of Jasper one year ago. To be sure, Jasper has continued to amass service provider and enterprise customers at a rapid pace, but Cisco’s appetite for “moving up the value chain” appears to have cooled, at least for now.