A recent report suggests that Low Power Wide Area Networks remain an uncertain proposition despite the staggering increase in devices and systems connected to the Internet of Things.

The analysis from GlobalData noted that LPWANs were supposed to enable enough IoT connections to effectively offset the low average cost-per-user of those connections.
Although those networks remain in their relative infancy, the analysts suggested that LPWAN strategies are largely missing a path from the connections themselves to higher-value services — namely connectivity management, apps, hardware and software packages and even low-cost global roaming.

"To be fair, we are still at the beginning of the LPWAN era," said GlobalData Global IT Managed & Hosted Services Research Director Kathryn Weldon. "But the first rumblings about whether we are seeing traction and monetization are starting to be heard and the reviews are mixed."

The report noted data from GSMA showed 26 operators across 48 nations conducted build-outs of either Narrowband IoT or LTE-M networks as of April. The majority of those countries — 31 — deployed NB-IoT, although some projects either included both or planned to do so.

At this early stage, Weldon said the industry largely remains optimistic, albeit more realistic about how fast IoT connections will be deployed and how easily they could be monetized.

The technology, however, is also up against the clock as operators prepare for the debut of 5G systems.

"If 5G is coming sooner than expected, it may displace LPWANs before they have barely started," Weldon said.