A new report from the IoT analyst firm Berg Insight says that the ten leading global mobile operator groups have a combined market share of 76 percent in cellular IoT. The top players reported a combined active base of 407 million cellular IoT connections at the end of H1-2017. China Mobile was number one with 150 million IoT connections in the period. Vodafone ranked second, with a reported 59 million connections, ahead of China Unicom with 50 million IoT connections. AT&T and China Telecom ranked fourth and fifth with 36 million and 28 million IoT connections respectively. Deutsche Telecom, Softbank/Sprint, Verizon and Telefónica currently had in the range of 15–20 million cellular IoT subscribers, which are growing at yearly rates of 15–30 percent. Telenor was the last player in the top ten with approximately 12 million cellular IoT subscribers.
“The Chinese mobile operators achieved tremendous volume growth in 2017, driven by accelerating uptake of cellular IoT in the domestic market”, says Tobias Ryberg, Senior Analyst at Berg Insight and author of the report. “China Mobile is believed to have reached 200 million cellular IoT connections at the end of 2017”.
Vodafone and AT&T are consolidating their positions as regional market leaders in Europe and North America respectively, serving multinational clients on a global basis. “In 2017, Vodafone extended its lead in the European market”, says Mr Ryberg. “The competitors are however also gaining momentum and the expanding market has room for multiple players”.
In terms of revenues, the Western mobile operators are ahead of their Chinese counterparts. Berg Insight expects that at least three operator groups – AT&T, Verizon and Vodafone – will generate more than US$ 1 billion in revenues from IoT in 2018. “The main strategy for growing IoT revenues is vertical plays in major application areas,” says Mr Ryberg. “Verizon, Vodafone and others have made significant acquisitions in the connected vehicle space to extend their product portfolios. AT&T and Deutsche Telekom develop dedicated practices for smart cities and many operators seek to play leading roles in national projects in areas like smart metering and electronic road charging”.