Lessons from China as cellular IoT connections hit 1.2 billion

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The global number of cellular IoT subscribers increased by 70% during 2018 to reach 1.2 billion, according to a new report from Berg Insight.

The IoT analyst firm finds that growth was driven by “exceptional adoption” in China, which accounted for 63% of the global installed base. By 2023, Berg Insight forecasts that there will be 9 billion IoT devices connected to cellular networks worldwide.

“China is deploying cellular IoT technology at a monumental scale”, said Tobias Ryberg, Principal Analyst and author of the report. “According to data from the Chinese mobile operators, the installed base in the country grew by 124% year-on-year to reach 767 million at the end of 2018.”

China has now surpassed Europe and North America in terms of penetration rate with 54.7 IoT connections per 100 inhabitants.

Government intervention

Berg Insight believes that the role of the government is the main explanation for why China is ahead of the rest of the world in the adoption of IoT. The Chinese government is actively driving adoption as a tool for achieving domestic and economic policy goals, at the same time as the private sector implements IoT technology to improve efficiency and drive innovation.

Like other advanced economies, the country has widespread adoption of connected cars, fleet management, smart metering, asset monitoring and other traditional applications for cellular IoT. New consumer services enabled by connectivity, such as bike sharing, are also on the rise.

Show me the money

Berg Insight also analysed the IoT business KPIs of mobile operators in different parts of the world and found significant regional differences. The monthly ARPU (average revenue per user) for cellular IoT connectivity services in China was only € 0.22, compared to € 0.70 in Europe.

Global revenues from cellular IoT connectivity services increased by 19%  in 2018 to reach € 6.7 billion. The ten largest players had a combined revenue share of around 80%.