Smartphones accounted for 49% of certified devices last year, while IoT modules were the fastest-growing device segment

Cellular devices are becoming more complex, supporting more bands than ever — and the number of certified internet of things devices is booming, according to the Global Certification Forum.

GCF has released some numbers from its 2018 certification program and reported a 23% year-over-year increase in cellular device certifications, resulting in a record number overall; that growth was mostly due to IoT modules, which had the fastest growth rate of any device segment even though smartphones accounted for the largest number of certified devices. But the proportion of smartphones dropped from 55% of all certified devices to 49% in 2018. That drop is mostly due to the growth in IoT modules, GCF said — they now make up 24$ of devices, up from 16% in 2017.

In addition, more manufacturers are joining the mobile ecosystem and certifying devices — GCF said that the number of manufacturers certifying cellular devices grew 17% between 2017 and 2018.

GCF said that the average device now incorporates 17.3 spectrum bands and 2.6 technologies (such as cellular generations or types, including GSM and LTE). In 2017, devices supported an average of 13.4 frequency bands, meaning that the number of supported frequencies in an average device is up nearly 30% in one year’s time.

The incorporation of LTE into devices appears to be plateauing, and even dropped slightly from 85% of certified devices being equipped with LTE to 84%. GCF categorized that as a significant slowing, given that it had grown by 7% between 2015 and 2016 and 8% between 2016 and 2017. Meanwhile, 3G band support actually increased — after declining in 2017 — and GCF said that 3G is the most common technology in devices, with 87% of devices supporting 3G bands. 3G support, however, is incorporated with other technologies; there were no standalone 3G devices certified by GCF last year, and the group said that suggests “the standard will continue to decline as operators replace 3G capacity with LTE.”

As 5G devices begin to come to market, those will need certification as well. GCF began developing a 5G device certification process in 2017 that will cover both the non-standalone and standalone modes of 5G New Radio once those are finalized by 3GPP.

GCF expects there to be a “low” number of 5G device certifications this year, and that none of them will be millimeter wave devices — rather, they’ll use sub-millimeter wave frequencies. It also noted that as of January of this year, there is now a GCF-approved solution for 5G NR device test: Keysight Technology’s 5G conformance toolset (which also has approval from the PTCRB, the other major global body for device certification).

In related news, GCF and the 5G Automotive Association have agreed on a framework to combine their efforts to drive the introduction of cellular vehicle-to-everything products to the market.

Their partnership “aims to address the current gap in certification capabilities and processes [and harmonize]C-V2X at a global level and [reduce]the time-to-market of C-V2X products.” The two groups said that C-V2X products are expected to begin coming to market this year, based on 3GPP LTE Release 14 standards completed in 2017 — and GCF said that since its certification portfolio already covers LTE sidelink — which is a technology foundation for vehicle-to-vehicle and V2X use cases — that it is a “natural partner” for the 5GAA on certification.

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