Paul Marshall

Founder & CCO


What is roaming?

Roaming is a cellular connectivity solution used when a SIM card can’t connect to a local network. The 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.

How does IoT roaming work?

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:

IoT roaming is a complex topic, but understanding the basics is important for anyone who wants to deploy IoT devices internationally.

What are the benefits of IoT roaming?

There are many benefits of using a roaming IoT SIM card, including:

Scalable and easy deployment to different locations

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.

Global coverage for IoT devices

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.

Reduced complexity and cost of deploying IoT devices globally

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.

Improved reliability and redundancy for IoT devices

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.

What are the challenges of IoT roaming?

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.

Increased costs

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.

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 from country to 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 the cloud.

Due to the fact that roaming requires data to be backhauled back to the home network, it can violate data sovereignty regulations.

Permanent roaming restrictions

When roaming works, it can be invaluable for IoT deployments, but if a device is connected to a roaming network continually, it is “permanently roaming”.

Permanent roaming is known for preventing the success of global IoT deployments. Cellular IoT connectivity providers have historically used roaming to increase their global connectivity levels, but recent permanent roaming restrictions imposed by country regulators or networks can lead to extortionate charges for data usage and removal of devices from the network.

The Broken Economics of IoT Roaming

In this podcast episode we interview Steffen Sorrell, Chief of Research at Kaleido Intelligence, about why global connectivity is so complex.

Listen now

When should I use IoT roaming?

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.

Achieve the best connectivity for your project

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:

Together with our Infinity IoT Platform™ you can see and control every device in your IoT estate, plus manage all your connections through a single view.

Paul Marshall

Founder & CCO


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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