China Unicom has identified IoT as its key focus area in order to drive future revenue growth. However, despite China Unicom enjoying growth in mobile traffic, the organization expects to see mobile traffic growth decline significantly in the next number of years and will focus on IoT applications.
At MWC in Shanghai, Asia’s premier ICT industry and exhibition – China Unicom expressed its intentions to accelerate its NB-IoT rollout as parts of its strategic plan to expand its range of IoT services. Shanghai Unicom is a subsidiary of China Unicom and the firm’s General Manager Shen Hongbo stated that he doesn’t expect to see the company generate income from mobile traffic – instead suggesting that future revenue streams will be driven by IoT.
Shen said: “We’re seeing a bottleneck in subscriber growth in Shanghai, and we don’t see a lot more income being generated from traffic. More revenue will be generated from IoT converged businesses as well as content-related operations. We will have to rely on IoT to grow our business.”
In addition to this, Shanghai Unicom’s GM claimed that the IoT sector will be driven low-power, low-speed data collection applications like smart metering. Unicom has estimated that China’s low-power segment is at 3 billion connections – whilst the high-speed segment will be less than 200 million. Shen added: “So we’re first looking at the low-power, extended coverage market. This will be our priority.”
In 2016, China Unicom selected NB-IoT because it felt it was a more mature technology and decided to deploy LPWA technology. Analysts have claimed that China Unicom’s decision to do so was conservative suggesting it was ‘safe to go with the flow’ especially with many operators opting for NB-IoT running on 900MHz band.
China Unicom’s NB-IoT network covering all of Shanghai went live at the beginning of May, and has thus far been hailed a success. It was also disclosed that in addition to Shanghai, China Unicom has launched NB-IoT in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Fuzhou with applications including smart parking, smart fire sensors and smart meter services.