The Wireless IoT Forum is calling on national telecom regulators such as Ofcom in the U.K. and the FCC in the U.S. to dedicate bandwidth to ensure the monetization and long-term sustainability of IoT networks and services. The Forum said that available bands currently do not meet the needs of large-scale IoT deployment, as they are constrained by power restrictions, interference and regulatory factors. Problems can arise because all traffic on an IoT network goes through a small number of base stations or network relay points, all subject to the same regulatory constraints as any other device operating in unlicensed spectrum. If current growth trends continue, cells will need sufficient power to deliver a range of up to 5 kilometers, the ability to have an uplink/downlink balance that is flexible, reasonable freedom from interference, and a small number of frequencies spanning a relatively narrow band that are available globally.
We have written recently about mobile spectrum as a limited resource and the eventual, looming problem of spectrum shortage. However, it has seemed that IoT networks were an exception to the trend, since by and large they use frequencies other than those used for conventional mobile signals. For example, special IoT networks such as the LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Networks) spearheaded by IBM and Semtech and the LoRa (Long Range) technology being deployed by Orange in France use low power and are able to communicate over long distances and to penetrate walls and other obstacles. But the Wireless IoT Forum’s findings indicate that even the emerging IoT will soon run into serious difficulties if governments do not step in to make sure that sufficient spectrum is made available and viable. With 25 billion objects expected to be connected by 2020, the IoT is a huge revenue opportunity for mobile operators around the world. But they will have to work in close cooperation with regulators and make an investment in the infrastructure if they are to realize the promise of this rapidly expanding sector.