IoT device managers are sticking with 4G with only 9% planning a move to 5G

Twilio and IDC find that companies are also worried about high integration costs, lack of developer tools and debugging capabilities with cellular IoT projects.

Internet of things, wireless communication network, abstract image visual.

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

IoT decision makers are still not sold on the promise of 5G, according to a new report from IDC. Companies also are concerned about managing the costs of cellular IoT and having enough developer tools and APIs to support these projects. 

The survey also found that 75% of IoT devices using cellular connections are stationary. Stacy Crook, research director, Internet of Things at IDC, analyzed the survey results and wrote the report, "Streamlining Connectivity Management for Cellular IoT Success." 

Cellular IoT uses the same mobile networks as smartphones to connect sensors and other devices to the internet. Ericsson predicts that the number of cellular IoT connections will grow from 1.6 billion in 2020 to 5.4 billion in 2026, a compound annual growth rate of 23%.

SEE: Millions of IoT devices running on 3G need to make the move to 5G before the older networks disappear

Crook found that 79% of respondents plan to use 4G for cellular IoT deployments with only 9% making the jump to 5G. Respondents listed these concerns about 5G service:

  • Limited access to Tier 1 networks
  • Network quality degradation when devices are in motion
  • Poor troubleshooting capabilities 
  • No failover options during network outages
  • The ability to select which radio technology devices connect to

The survey found that proof-of-concept projects also take twice as long as companies expect: 12 months vs. six. Survey respondents named these three challenges that slow down cellular IoT projects:

  1. Lack of visibility into domestic and global device deployments and usage
  2. Ordering and shipping SIMs and modules in a timely manner
  3. Inability to try SIMs during the evaluation process

Cost is another pain point for cellular IoT projects with 65% of companies stating that they pay for overages and unused data. Managing multiple cellular carriers and the associated billing complexities are also a significant problem.  

Crook recommends that companies managing IoT cellular deployments design for scale, ensure global visibility and control and include fleet management, integration, time to market and deployment testing efforts in addition to data costs when calculating the total cost of ownership.

The survey identified these top three use cases across all verticals:

  • Buildings: smart lighting, HVAC and connected elevators
  • Security: alarm systems, physical access and remote monitoring
  • Environment: climate monitoring, temperature control and soil monitoring

Companies are managing large fleets of IoT devices. The average deployment size is 1,700. In large companies, that number is 6,300 devices. 

IDC conducted the survey in January among 1,000 IoT decision makers about current cellular IoT deployments as well as future plans. Survey respondents were in the U.S., the U.K. and Germany at companies ranging in size from 5,000 and more employees (20%) to less than 500 (29%). Healthcare, manufacturing, government, retail, utilities and transportation companies are represented in the survey.

Twilio sponsored this research which was produced by IDC Custom Solutions.

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By Veronica Combs

Veronica Combs is a senior writer at TechRepublic. For more than 10 years, she has covered technology, healthcare, and business strategy. In addition to her writing and editing expertise, she has managed small and large teams at startups and establis...