market forecasts

  • The global cellular IoT module market continued to recover sequentially but is yet to reach 2019 levels.
  • Quectel and Qualcomm maintained their top positions in the cellular IoT module vendor and chipset player market shares respectively.
  • Smart meter, automotive and telematics are the top three applications for cellular IoT modules globally in terms of shipments.

Global cellular IoT module shipments increased 9% QoQ but decreased 6% YoY during Q4 2020, according to the latest research by Counterpoint’s Global Cellular IoT Module, Chipset and Application Tracker.

The COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the cellular IoT module demand across mobility sectors but saw an increased adoption among other industry verticals, such as healthcare and gateways. Only Japan and South Korea witnessed an increase in shipments on a YoY basis. The total cellular IoT module shipments for 2020 ended at 265 million units. A fresh wave of COVID-19 and semiconductor shortages stopped the cellular IoT module market from recovering fully.

Commenting on the market dynamics, Research Analyst Soumen Mandal said:

“Quectel continued to lead global cellular IoT module vendors in terms of shipment volumes and revenues. However, it lost market share in successive quarters due to the rise of longtail module vendors, especially in China. There has been an intense competition for the second spot between the incumbent Thales, Sierra Wireless and the fast-growing Fibocom.”

“The negative impact of COVID-19 forced Thales to surrender the second spot to Fibocom in Q2 2020. However, Thales recaptured it in Q3 2020, retaining it through the end of the year. The improved performance in Europe, North America and Japan helped Thales regain its position. Fibocom is trying to increase its global presence and improve service support to increase its share in the global cellular IoT module market.”

“Sierra Wireless slipped out of the top five module vendor rankings with the divestment of its automotive business to a consortium led by Fibocom Wireless to form an independent company, Rolling Wireless. Among large module vendors in China, only Fibocom and Meig experienced positive quarterly and yearly growth during Q4 2020 in terms of shipments.”

Exhibit 1: Global Cellular IoT Module Shipments Share by Module Vendor, Q4 2020

chart: Global Cellular IoT Module Shipments Share by Module Vendor, Q4 2020

Source: Counterpoint Global Cellular IoT Module, Chipset and Application Tracker

Mandal added:
“The 4G LTE modules continued to dominate, contributing to nearly half of the global cellular IoT module shipment volumes. The demand for 4G Cat-1 modules is poised to grow significantly this year. The demand for NB-IoT modules remains healthy, contributing to a third of the cellular IoT module shipment volumes in Q4 2020. Smart meters, telematics and utilities are the top applications for NB-IoT technology. The 3GPP Release 14 spec-based NB-IoT (Cat NB2) modules gain location capabilities among others, expanding the spectrum of use cases to the broader mobility, tracking and telematics applications.”

“The demand for 5G IoT modules during the quarter was limited to the router/CPE market and other industrial applications. However, the majority of launched 5G modules are expected to enter mainstream production in the second half of 2021. The demand will also begin to take off with improving 5G coverage in many key markets such as China, North America and parts of Europe.”

Exhibit 2: Global Cellular IoT Module Shipments Share by Chipset Brand, Q4 2020

chart: Global Cellular IoT Module Shipments Share by Chipset Brand, Q4 2020

Source: Counterpoint Global Cellular IoT Module, Chipset and Application Tracker

Commenting on the cellular IoT module chipset supplier landscape, Vice-President Research Neil Shah noted:
“Qualcomm further increased its share in the global cellular chipset market to nearly half in Q4 2020, riding on the growing demand for 4G and LPWA modules. As the top-tier Chinese module vendors look to expand their presence beyond China, Qualcomm and other suppliers such as Sony (Altair Semi) and Sequans seem to be major beneficiaries going forward. HiSilicon has been the top supplier when it comes to NB-IoT technology. It expects to continue to lead in the coming quarters despite US sanctions. However, with growing competition and design wins, UNISOC and MediaTek look forward to increasing their market share, especially in the NB-IoT segment away from HiSilicon. With the entry of newer suppliers in the cellular IoT chipset market, such as AutoTalks, ASR and Eigencomm, alongside the vertically integrated u-blox, Nordic Semi will light up some competition, especially in the fast-growing LPWA segment.”

Shah added:
“The NB-IoT module ASP (average selling price) continues to decline (3% YoY) with scale in Q4 2020, driving further adoption of NB-IoT technology. Sub-$5 priced modules contributed to almost a third of the shipments during this quarter. The ASP of another fast-growing segment, 4G LTE Cat 1 modules, decreased by 9% YoY in Q4 2020 and is an emerging choice to replace many existing and future 2.5G/3G M2M applications.”

Currently, Counterpoint is tracking and forecasting 40+ IoT module vendors’ shipments, revenue performance across 10+ chipset players, and 18+ IoT applications across 10 major geographies on a quarterly basis, with a forecast up to 2025. Full reports are available for subscribing clients through the following links:

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