Back in 2010, Ericsson set the bar for much of the subsequent hype around the Internet of Things by making a very pubic prediction that by 2020 there would be 50 billion internet connected devices. Others have been more or less aggressive, suggesting “conservative” numbers of 20 billion, while some have stretched credulity with projections up to 1.5 trillion. The 50 billion isn’t just IoT, it covers everything from phones to smart TVs to tractors, but the biggest single element is what we now call the Internet of Things, with the original 50 billion prediction including around 20 billion cellular IoT connections.
Most analysts have supported the Ericsson line with an estimate somewhere between 30 and 50 billion. But just before Christmas, in their latest Mobility Report, Ericsson quietly changed their minds. They still kept the headline number of around 50 billion connected devices, but dropped the number of cellular connected IoT devices in 2020 from their previous estimate of 20 billion to just over 1 billion.
The important word here is cellular. This week, as the mobile community gathered in Barcelona for their annual jamboree, which is the Mobile World Congress, the industry was still full of expectation that they would own the Internet of Things, and more importantly, the revenue associated with it. Ericsson doesn’t want to spoil that hope with any blatant contradictions, but if you look more closely at the implication of their new numbers, the IoT aspirations of the networks look less than rosy, as their revenue projections begin to disappear into thin air.