08 July 2022
Reading Time: 5 mins
08 July 2022
Reading Time: 5 mins
IoT roaming is a cellular connectivity solution used when a SIM card in an IoT device can’t connect to a local network. The IoT SIM will connect or “roam” onto another network based on pre-defined roaming agreements. Almost every mobile network operator (MNO) has agreements with other providers so that their customers can achieve global coverage.
IoT roaming has similarities with mobile phone roaming in that it allows IoT devices to connect to a foreign network and access data services.
However, there are some key differences between IoT roaming and mobile phone roaming. For example, mobile phone roaming charges are usually higher than IoT roaming charges. IoT devices often have very different data requirements than mobile phones. They may need to send small amounts of data infrequently or large amounts of data frequently.
IoT devices may also need to connect to multiple networks in different geographies, which is known as multi-homing. This is because IoT devices are often used in mission-critical applications where reliability and redundancy are important.
Multi-homing can be achieved by using a multi-IMSI SIM. Each IMSI relates to a different mobile network operator, each with its own data plan and network connection. IoT roaming is a complex topic, but understanding the basics is important for anyone who wants to deploy IoT devices internationally.
There are many benefits of using a roaming IoT SIM card, including:
Roaming agreements between mobile network operators allow IoT devices to connect to a foreign network and access data services. This simplifies global IoT deployment operations as devices can easily connect to the nearest available network.
There are more than 800 MNOs in the world. IoT roaming helps IoT devices connect with the best network for their needs. This includes considering factors like signal strength, data requirements, and cost. This ensures that IoT devices can always communicate with the necessary infrastructure, which is essential for many industrial and commercial applications.
With a roaming SIM card, IoT devices can easily connect to the nearest available network, which reduces the need for manual configuration. This also allows for global coverage for IoT devices, as every mobile operator has roaming agreements with other providers. Additionally, using a roaming IoT SIM can help to reduce costs by consolidating multiple data plans into one.
IoT roaming can improve the reliability and redundancy of IoT devices. MNOs have roaming agreements with other networks which means that IoT devices can still connect even when they go outside of the home network’s coverage area or if it becomes unavailable. This improves the quality of service and allows devices to continue operating.
Roaming has traditionally supported a large proportion of IoT device connections.
Tier 1 mobile operators, specialised MVNOs or service providers using MCC 901 SIMs (non-geographic, ‘global’ SIMs) have historically offered customers broad coverage via wholesale agreements with other operators around the world.
For the most part, mobile roaming agreements have been based on consumer-orientated roaming patterns, where roaming is the result of tourism or business short-term travel. As a rule, this type of roaming is understood to last for no longer than 90 days before the consumer’s device returns to its home location.
When a device is roaming, its communications are backhauled to the local (home) network. Long distances between the local and roaming networks might contribute to latency and increasing costs.
Due to this intricacy, there’s a greater probability that something will go wrong, such as network issues on the local or roaming networks causing messages to be lost and IoT devices to become disconnected. The unpredictability of costly roaming fees and the risk that regulation may be imposed or modified at any time creates an unstable operating environment.
Roaming charges can be unpredictable and can vary depending on the country you are travelling in. While IoT roaming can help to reduce costs by consolidating multiple data plans into one, there is still a risk that additional charges may be incurred.
Typically, the cost of transmitting data is more expensive with roaming. Organisations with IoT devices that send large packets of data may feel the data roaming charges more acutely. Furthermore, existing roaming agreements can change and disrupt service availability. Without the ability to manage the affected SIM fleet remotely, this type of disruption can result in considerable costs to correct the issue.
IoT roaming regulations can be complex and are always subject to change. This can make it difficult to ensure compliance, especially for companies operating in multiple countries. For example, before 2019, the NRA in the UAE had found little need to intervene where permanent roaming was concerned. It has now released an IoT policy that effectively prevents this practice by demanding that confidential business data be processed and stored in-country.
How data is processed, where it is stored, and how it is moved also fall under regulations. Data residency refers to where a business reports data is geographically located and stored.
While data sovereignty refers to how the data is collected and processed, and importantly whether it adheres to the laws of the country in which it is gathered. Data sovereignty rules differ country by country and certain industries have more stringent regulations. For example, medical and healthcare data must be stored extremely securely, and care taken in the transmission from IoT device to cloud.
Due to the fact that roaming requires data to be backhauled back to the home network, it can violate data sovereignty regulations.
When roaming works, it can be invaluable for IoT deployments. If a device is connected to a roaming network continually, it is “permanently roaming“. This is not allowed in some countries. If a device does not connect to a local network after a certain amount of time, it will be disconnected.
Over the last few years, operators and regulators in many countries across the world have become increasingly concerned with permanent roaming by IoT devices:
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IoT roaming is a popular connectivity solution for IoT deployments but as the IoT industry grows and regulations change it may not always be the right choice. For a simple, small-scale IoT deployment where devices need to connect to a network outside of their home country for a limited period, IoT roaming is a good choice. If you plan to deploy globally and intend for your devices to roam for longer, it can end up being more expensive due to additional permanent roaming charges, and restrictions.
It is important to weigh up the pros and cons of your unique IoT project to decide whether roaming is a viable long-term connectivity solution for your business.
We simplify the complexity of deploying and managing large-scale IoT device estates across multiple countries, and via a global network of mobile carriers. By providing full lifecycle services for every stage of an IoT project, we can help you to:
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Paul is one of Eseye’s co-founders. With a background in senior design engineering, Paul’s focus is on ensuring his development, operations and support teams deliver solutions that work faultlessly in the field.
Paul was co-founder of CompXs, with Ian Marsden, and developed the world’s first IEEE 802.15.4 radio. Before CompXs, Paul was in senior radio design at Philips.
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